tributes: 95
Since my father Subir Raha passed away on February 1, 2010, my family has received hundreds of letters, emails and texts from his friends and associates - professional and personal, and also many people who had never met him in person or interacted with him directly, but have yet been moved in some way by his work and his personality. Words cannot express the pride and amazement we feel at the tributes we have received, at the fond reminiscences, and at the genuine outpouring of regret that he is no more. I'm sharing as many of the tributes as has been possible for me to digitise at this moment, since the bulk of the letters and memorial notes have to be manually keyed in, and a warm thank you to everyone for taking the time to write in and share your thoughts. ~ Shuva Raha


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From the Government of India:

"I am deeply grieved to learn about the passing away of Shri Subir Raha."
T K A Nair, Principal Secretary, Prime Minister's Office, New Delhi, via post


"Shri Raha has been one of the well-known and most knowledgeable technocrat oil industry had ever known. His tenure in the oil industry started from being a Marketing Executive to reach the peak of heading India's number one 'Navratna Company' is in itself a milestone. The imprint that he has left in oil industry will inspire many to learn from his vast knowledge and experience. The industry has lost a doyen and a good human being."
Jitin Prasada, Minister of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India, via post


"We lost a great son of our State. He was of great help in our strive towards the industrial development of our State. As Chairman of the Expert Committee of PCPIR constituted by the Government of West Bengal, his contribution will always be remembered."
Nirupam Sen, Minister-in-Charge, Department of Commerce & Industries, Industrial Reconstruction, Public Enterprises and Development & Planning, Government of West Bengal, via post


"I had known Subir for quite a while. He spoke his mind freely without fear or favour. He was one of the finest Chief Executives I have seen."
B K Chaturvedi, Member, Planning Commission


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From mentors, peers, colleagues, associates, friends and the general public, in random order:


"He had played a leadership role in the petroleum & natural gas sector and was instrumental in ONGC acquiring Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. He also initiated deep-water offshore exploration and enhanced oil recovery projects at ONGC. The Academy has lost one of its most distinguished fellows."
~ P S Goel, Indian National Academy of Engineering, via post


"Subir Raha is one of the biggest names on Indian corporate horizon, certainly the biggest and most respected in the entire Oil Industry. It is very sad to know the demise of such a stalwart. It’s a big loss to not only your family, but the entire nation. Your father's contribution to the country is incomparable. He inspired many million students like me who read about his achievements during our college years. I even had the opportunity of listening to his speech in 2005 at IIM Ahmedabad."
~ Praveen Gattu, National Grid, UK, via email


"Mr Raha was a great source of strength and inspiration to all of us at ISTD."
~ R P Singh, Fellow & Past President, ISTD & Chairman, NIPM, Rajasthan Chapter, via email


"He had been an active part of our company. We will miss his guidance and experience."
~ P H Ravikumar, MD & CEO, Invent Asset Securitisation & Reconstruction Pvt. Ltd., via post


"Mr. Subir Raha was the architect in bringing ONGC in the limelight and taking it to great heights of success and profitability."
~ Padam Singhee, JMD, Shiv-Vani Limited, via email


"Subir Raha, the former CMD of ONGC Ltd., brought an international recognition for the India's largest E&P company. Although I did not know him very well, but he touched on my heart through his visionary leadership."
~ Kalyan K Majumdar, Manager (Aesthetics), Red Dot Art Gallery, Indirapuram, via post


"Shri Subir Raha would always be remembered, with gratitude, for his outstanding contribution for the growth of ISTD and his invaluable services rendered to all organisations."
~ T. Chandru, Sr. GM (Electrical) & MR / MA - QHSE, DCW Ltd., via email


"I joined IndianOil in 1981 as trainee at Calcutta, when Mr Raha was Manager Facilities at ERO. I have known him since then and have last worked with him for SAP implementation when he was DIR(HR). In fact it was he who brought me to the team. I share my thoughts about him with you through my two messages in our internal IndianOil online forum as below... Maybe his memories will live on in your minds through our experiences with him:

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I too heard of his demise. He is one I admire most not just because of his terrific contribution to our organisation (besides elsewhere) but also because of his intelligence, thoroughness in any subject that he dealt in and his dedication. I am at a loss for words to describe a man who is so well known to all of us old timers. I need not describe him here to IOCians who know him well enough.

But I am here to say that I admire him most because he was a fighter till he breathed his last. He lived till he died. I know this because I saw him writing even as late as 9th Jan 2010 since I have been reading them! Amazing Personality!! It was just a matter of days but now that the day has come to pass I feel sad.

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Well since Raj and others shared something let me share some too. I know him from day-1. When I was being interviewed after my one year Training (then we were OTs not MT like today) he asked me my choice. Of course I said LPG Sales.. then LPG was a growing deptt and it was rumoured he will take over and LPG surplus will be there in 2000 (ha !!!) and naturally sales is attractive with a car those days. He asked me why not LPG Ops? He asked me I see you have a connection with Andamans.. will you be posted there? i knew A&N did not have sales.. but I said "Sure if you start LPG Sales there" He laughed.. he did not mind my reply! His sense of humour.

At Rajbandh TL when he was Mgr Facilities at ER we had a party in the TM's bungalow once.. he danced with us.. even though we were just A grade officers.. He believed in work when working and relaxing afterwards.

I have seen him take time to learn new subjects before discussing with vendors and then grilling them on their subjects. Thirst for Knowledge.

In one brain storming forum where I was a member he accepted that even he does not do 8 hrs real work. As a DIR (HR) when he said that it only tells us his HONESTY and CANDIDNESS and acceptance of truth. He said most from top down are doing the job of persons lower to us. I am saying this in simple english to convey the meaning. Actual english used by him was of course different. This shows his vision and understanding of the organisation.

Our LPG deptt was the first to be computerised as we all know. Thanks to him. Wherever he has gone he has done something new. Even today's SAP is his contribution. Only he faced resistance [I will not go into this but mktg people know] but Mr Raha, being Mr Raha, could overcome the resistance and get support and do it!

But the greatest thing about him which we may miss is his strength. --> Many a times I thought of how nice it would be to work with him directly. I knew he was a task master, but he rewards his people who work (look at the people who worked with him directly. they are all fast trackers; some of them have left IOCL, some are still here) and being a task master one would get lot of firing, but the result would be one would learn - and the greatest learning that I could have got from him is this --> How to be different in this world and yet succeed by overcoming all the resistances and obstacles? He was like that!! And this is one LESSON I would have liked to learn but never collected enough courage to ask him directly even though I worked with him indirectly in OPS when I was junior and in HR and COIS when I was senior.

Looking back at him and how he stood his position against all the odds in his life from Criticisms to resistances and obstacles (eg Domineering Minister Boss) and even against death- how he refused to acknowledge death even when he was dying, I salute him again and again!!

There are some people who leave this world making a mark behind on all of us and there are some like us who are never able to tell them what we feel about them when they are alive. Such is my mental relationship with him and he did not even know it."
~ Shantanu Das, Chief IS Mgr, Mktg Divn, IOC Limited, via email


"During the tenure of Late Shri Raha as Chairman, Research Council, IIP, the Institute strenghtened its relationship with the leading oil industries of the country. With the death of the Late Shri Raha, the Institute has lost one of its strongest supporter and guide. Besides being a renowned manager, Late Shri Raha was also a great human."
~ Dr. M O Garg, Director, Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR), Dehradun, via post


"He was instrumental in many transormations in ONGC. Introduction of CRC structure, implementation of CSR, Agrani Sanmaan, acquisition of overseas interests, MRPL, introduction of SAP, ONGC Reports.net and many more.

But all said and done and although in this occassion we are not supposed to discuss the darker sides, it was an established fact that he did consider Bengalis more efficient when it came to Promotions. Also the way he chose to target people and attack them in Vigilence cases, made the whole ongcians to sit back and be reluctant to take any major decisions, lest they be held responsible. This is even now haunting many.

One incident which I personally remember with the Late, Shri Raha was on the 4th October 2003 at Ankleshwar. He had come for the first time to Ankleshwar. I had also joined on transfer just two months ago. In the meeting, he started firing me for what was not done by my predecessor in last three years. He was not to listen to any logical discussions. He started asking me as to why not give a repeat order of contract which was executed in Ahmedabad. No such procedure was and is existint in ONGC. He even advised his MSG to note down my name, ID No and then take necessary actions. But some how, after returning to Delhi, he cooled down and nothing much happened to me.

Again in 2003, due to some family problems I had applied for VRS which was accepted. But then my family problems got resolved, and I thought that I can continue in ONGC for some more time. I requested for cancellation of my already accepted VRS. As per the circular on VRS, once applied, we were not allowed to withdraw the application. But he graciously agreed to my request and my VRS was cancelled, because of which I am still in ONGC."
~ H Sridhara, ONGC, via email


"He has touched so many lives and made a mark in transforming organizations like ONGC and MRPL. In the last few years he has inspired me as a towering leader and a role model. Our institute, Centre for Organization Development, Hyderabad honored him with V Krishnamurthy Award for Excellence and he continued to guide us as member of our Board of Governors. We shall cherish his memories and he continues to live amidst us."
~ Dr C V Madhavi, Sr. Prof & Director, Centre for Organization Development, via email


"I met your father when he was the Director of HR in IndianOil and was chairing a session of the Association of Indian management Schools (AIMS) at Hamdard University where I was one of the panelists. While sharing pleasantries, it transpired that both had Assam connections and shared a brief period of acquaintance as post school students. It seems that sometime in 1963/64, your father was in Shillong and was staying in Laban area where I also stayed. I had also just done my senior Cambridge and was having lots of free time and we seem to have met.

After he became ONGC Chairman, I renewed the contact and he reciprocated. One of the last thing he did for us was to sanction a Chair at the Assam Institute of Management. As president of All India Management Association, I had invited him to the "EPIGENESIS", an International Conference we had organised on Assam's development. He readily accepted my request to participate.

What he has attained as a professional man needs no elaboration on my part. I think he was a giant of a public sector man and the way he steered ONGC is something which not many could have emulated."
~ Shantikam Hazarika, Director, Assam Institute of Management, via email


"He was like a guide to many of us who made public sector job as our profession."
~ V V R Sastry, Retd Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Electronics Ltd., via email


"When Mr Raha took over as the new Chairman of ONGC, the first communication with guys like us, working in remote areas, was a revelation. It touched my heart in a way wherein I felt as if my Chairman has descended down to my Rig floor and was talking to me. That was the power of his words which, in the electronic medium, took the shape of a real tangible voice – urging on his field marshals to go beyond and look beyond. The depth of his intellectual capacity was amazing – it was evident that his mind was sharpened by the tremendous range of books he must have read. Military History with the stories of successful Generals, Roman and Greek Heroes and Philosophers, contemporary history and in-depth analysis of historical business decisions, failures, successes. Amazing!!

All the writings were in the dead of the night and hence carried the clarity of his thoughts – turning from anguish over shoddy work to elation over excellence wherever they might have happened. I went through all his exhortations with pleasure, and the common thread was the conviction that professional excellence should override all other considerations.

One fine day, while working on a rig in the East Coast, I got a call that my Chairman has chosen me to co-write the History of ONGC. That was my initiation into the Board Room of ONGC and rest is history. He led his life his way, always made an impact on the environment he dwelled in, speaking his mind and leading by example.

Mr Raha was a Man’s Man.

He will always live in the minds and hearts of people who believed in him."
~ Aniruddha Pattnaik, Ex- Supt. Engg ( Drilling), ONGC, via email


"Not one occasion, a number of occasion with my association at ISTD and other fora at domestic platform, it is a personal loss to me. After his return from Rashtrapati Bhavan after calling on H E Dr APJ Sir, before the 33rd IFTDO Conference in India, I noticed little tension on his wide forehead. That was his first and last tension I ever noticed at him. But that was shortlived. The Conference went off exceedingly well with the largest ever professional audience at The Ashoka. His noble and unique soul has entered another living body but I am confident that his warmth is alive and shall live forever."
~ Narendra Gupta, via email

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