Her colleagues call her the "cool" boss. Now, in a sign of the rise of women power in Indian public sector companies, the soft-spoken director (marketing) of Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL), Nishi Vasudeva, has been recommended to head the oil marketing company. She would, if appointed, be the first woman to reach the helm of a Navratna public sector firm.
Vasudeva, 57, is set to enter the elite league of women chiefs in India Inc, which includes Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank, Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank, Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC India, Vinita Bali of Britannia Industries and Kalpana Morparia of JPMorgan India.
However, there are only a few predecessors to name in the public sector, such as Ranjana Kumari, who became the first woman head of a public sector bank when she took charge of Indian Bank; Allahabad Bank chairman and managing director (CMD) S A Panse and former CMD of Hindustan Organic Chemicals Reena Ramachandran.
The Public Enterprises Selection Board on Wednesday recommended Vasudeva to the post of the chairman and managing director, following an interview process in which she pipped six others. Others in the fray were P K Joshi, director (human resources) of HPCL; M S Rana, CMD of Security Printing and Minting Corp of India; Gopal Singh, CMD of Central Coalfields Ltd; R S Rao, director-finance of HPCL; Bipin Behari of the ministry of environment and forests; and Omkar Rai‚ director general of Software Technology Parks of India (STPI).
If selected, Vasudeva will take charge of HPCL after the retirement of Subir Roy Choudhury on February 28, 2014.
When asked about her selection, Vasudeva responded in her trademark style. "This is just the initial approval by PESB; a lot of other steps are left and it will take another six months for the final clearance."
Now, the clearances of Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily, the Central Vigilence Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation are required, before her appointment comes for the consideration of Appointments Committeeof the Cabinet.
In 2011, Vasudeva did a first by becoming the first woman to graduate to the board of a Navratna company, HPCL, and taking over as director-marketing. In her capacity as director, she considered the major challenges that the company is facing to be "under-recovery issues, rupee depreciation and it is going to deal with it".
An Indian Institute of Management-Kolkata graduate, she has a wide experience spanning 34 years in streams such as marketing, corporate, strategy and planning and information systems.
"She is very gentle and respects everyone. It is easy to work with her. She takes ideas from all team members and is extremely hardworking. If she is convinced of an idea, she will support it no matter what," says one of Vasudeva's colleagues.
HPCL had posted an annual turnover of Rs 1,90,048 crore and income from operations of Rs 2,15,675 crore during the financial year 2012-13. It has a market capitalization of Rs 5,975 crore.