media report
Goodbye Dada!
3/2/2010  |

A tribute to Subir Raha, who was Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of ONGC from 2001 to 2006, and Chairman, SCOPE in 2003. By Arup Roy Choudhury.

Subir RahaI met Subir Raha for the first time as soon as he took over as CMD, ONGC. This was also the time when I took over as CMD, NBCC. Besides the difference of almost 10 years in age, we were assigned to lead two companies in the other extreme of the spectrum. He, the biggest CPSU and a belmouth in the Oil and Gas sector and me, the CMD of a company earmarked for disinvestment, known for not paying salaries, statuary dues with negative net worth at that point of time.

We both could immediately connect because I feel he saw something in me which made him feel that he could trust me. He took a decision to bail us out by agreeing to award the project for which NBCC had qualified in the tender but the award was on hold by ONGC due to the poor market reputation of NBCC , ONGC's "11th High" building at Dharavi. We reposed his confidence to deliver the building in time, with very high quality and at a very reasonable rate. He was looking forward to make a total change in the working culture in ONGC and our proactive approach in completing the project enabled him to set a bench mark for civil construction in his own organization.

There after we had several interactions and he developed some sort of confidence on me such that he took his board along to assign several more visionary projects to NBCC, be it his Green Building at Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata or the ambitious helipad at Mumbai. Each time these projects were discussed, on many occasions in front of his complete board, I was intrigued at the way he conducted with board members to some he was hard almost reprimanding while others he swayed with his vision and logic.

We kept meeting thereafter even as families and there was always a learning experience from those interactions. On one occasion when he came to our house he could not eat sighting some problem with his mouth. Little did I realize that it was the beginning of his end. When he got hospitalized at Gurgaon I had a long chat with him on his cancer treatment and his immediate and long term plan to shift to a set up nearer to his house in Greater Kailash. He was so optimistic of coming out of it, that for a moment I also got carried away in the false belief that this killer disease was curable. He was so grateful to ONGC and his successor Mr. RS Sharma for standing by him in his difficult time.

He kept going in and out of hospital and we kept communicating through text messages and telephone calls. We also met at some functions where he could come, the 50th year celebrations of IOC comes readily in mind. The last text messages we exchanged was in the second week of January where we were trying to meet at his place when he came back from hospital. But it could not take place.

Subir Raha was like a bright light which glowed in full grandeur and enlightened all around him. He made a state run enterprise to stand tall amongst Fortune 500 companies globally ahead of some of our best private sector companies. He gave a new dimension in Public Sector Management forcing the bureaucratic, political and corporate policy makers to have a fresh look at Public Sector management pool. May the Almighty give strength to his family to bear this grief. May his soul rest in peace.

Arup Roy Choudhury is Chairman & Managing Director, NBCC since April 2001 and also the Chairman, SCOPE.
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