Episode 19: Conversation with IndianOil’s R&D Director Dr. SSV Ramakumar
Indian Oil Corp. (IndianOil), a Fortune 500 company, remains a clear lubricants market leader in India, three decades after India deregulated its lubricants market. In this interview, Dr. SSV Ramakumar describes his journey from a young chemist fresh from obtaining his doctorate in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee to becoming the esteemed director of R&D, as well as Planning & Business Development, at IndianOil.
In 1992, IndianOil had to protect its market share from private players and multinational oil companies who re-entered the Indian lubricants market following deregulation. “Everybody’s gain was our loss. They were eating from our pie. Our pie was being sliced up. It was almost a monopoly at that time and we were enjoying a market share of tending 60%,” he recalled.
Deregulation changed IndianOIl’s R&D’s focus to developing “customer centric, cost-efficient products, products with differentiation.”
Ramakumar also narrates India’s recent transition from Bharat Stage IV to Bharat Stage VI, skipping altogether the intermediate stage, the equivalent of Euro V, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Without fanfare, Ramakumar said, IndianOil successfully switched all of its refineries, pipelines, terminals, oil depots and retail outlets, to producing and distributing BS-VI compliant petrol and diesel fuels at the stroke of midnight on April 1, 2020. To illustrate how huge this undertaking was, IndianOil owns 11 of India’s 23 refineries, with a total capacity of 80 million metric tons per annum. IndianOil also owns 15,000 kilometers (km) of the total 23,000 km pipeline in the country. Additionally, the state-owned oil company owns 35,000 out of the 60,000 retail outlets in the country.
Ramakumar, who was recently conferred a Fellowship by the National Academy of Engineering, is the recipient of numerous awards. Besides serving on the board of IndianOil, Ramakumar is also on the boards of Lanzatech, USA; Green Gas Ltd.; IndianOil Total Pvt. Ltd.; IOT Biogas Pvt. Ltd.; IndOil Montney Ltd., Canada, etc. He also presides over several national scientific societies, including the International Council of Internal Combustion Engines, India Chapter; Indian Society of Fuels and Lubricants; National Lubricating Grease Institute, Indian Chapter; and the Tribology Society of India. He also spearheads Start-Up initiatives of IndianOil.
Learn about IndianOil’s journey, especially its efforts to decarbonize, by listening to this podcast.