Sanjay Parashar took office as Managing Director of IndianOil (Mauritius) in April. With an extensive experience in the petroleum industry, he considers Mauritius as having substantial potential to become a petroleum hub in the sub-Saharan Africa region.
BUSINESSMAG. When did you join Indian Oil and how has your career evolved within the company?
I joined Indian Oil in 1990 as an Operation Officer and then moved to various functions at marketing and human resource levels. Indian Oil initially focused on the refining and marketing of petroleum products. It then diversified to become the global company it is today, with the ability to meet India’s energy requirements as well as those of other countries. As a part of the company’s expansion plans, Indian-Oil (Mauritius) – IOML – was created in 2001 and became operational in 2004.
BUSINESSMAG. What are the challenges awaiting the company in Mauritius?
Mauritius is a growing economy and, as such, its energy requirements are on the rise, though it is still far behind developed countries in terms of per capita energy consumption. Indian- Oil was a late entrant in the Mauritian market as compared to the other oil marketing companies, but it has caught up with the latter’s pace so much so that it has become the second largest company of the island in the oil sector.
Furthermore, the aviation and bunkering segments are growing faster and it is a challenge for oil companies to cope with modern fuel requirements which are more environment friendly. It is even more pertinent in the case of Mauritius as the island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. According to me, Mauritius has the potential to grow as a petroleum hub in the sub-Saharan Africa region. The challenge lying ahead of IOML is therefore that of strengthening its positioning as a reliable marketing company with a conscious effort to care for the environment, provide quality service and contribute to the economic growth of the country.
BUSINESSMAG. What was the company’s situation when you took office as Managing Director a few months ago and how far has it grown since then?
The company has been doing well since inception and has gradually increased its market share as well as its presence on the island. We have a robust policy for care, innovation, passion and trust. All employees have a very clear corporate goal and it is the responsibility of all to work towards achieving it. Team effort and individual excellence contribute to the overall growth of the company. IOML is currently among the top 15 companies in Mauritius and continues to excel year by year.
BUSINESSMAG. In your view, do existing laws promote the development of the oil sector at local level?
The Government has taken proactive measures from time to time to facilitate business. And business has grown over the years, which can certainly be attributed to Government initiatives. In any system, though, there is always scope for improvement and it is felt that the decision-making process within the system in Mauritius needs to be strengthened for faster growth. In that context, the National Single Window (Ed. Note, launched in January 2016, the Mauritius Trade Link acts as a single web-based online portal for the submission and processing of import/export permits) is a welcome move; it will certainly reduce the time for various approvals.
BUSINESSMAG. How does IOML manage to stand out in an environment where competition is quite fierce?
Firstly, I would like to say that competition means better quality and service, at an affordable cost. Indian Oil has always been in favour of a level playing field for all. It is gathered that prior to 2004, that is, before our company came to Mauritius, the look and feel of existing filling stations were not up to the mark. Further, getting good service was an issue. Indian Oil has become the game-changer by challenging the status quo. As a result, other operators began to provide quality service and take care of their image. Indian Oil always sets its own benchmark for service and finds out innovative ways to provide satisfaction and better services to its customers.
Indian Oil’s Q & Q (quality and quantity) initiative, for instance, is backed by its laboratory which meets the requirements of international standards and is fully equipped for the testing of petroleum products. Apart from that, we have segregated pipelines for the unloading of finished pro-ducts so that their integrity is fully preserved.
We also have world-class lubricants with brand name Servo, backed by the company’s strong Research & Development centre. These products offer complete lubrication solutions in the automotive, industrial, agricultural and marine fields. Besides, they are competitively priced to give customers value for money.
BUSINESSMAG. Recently, an Indian national was arrested for having sold microchips that can allegedly distort data of petrol pumps. The fraudster said the same microchips had been sold to operators in Mauritius and South Africa. Your opinion?
We take pride in the fact that no anomaly was found at any IndianOil filling station when news of this fraud appeared in the newspapers. In fact, we have a very robust system to maintain the Q & Q of our products in accordance with the provisions of the law.
In addition to periodical inspections, there are surprise checks in our filling stations that keep our staff alert and ensure that quality products are always served. Our laboratory conducts checks at regular intervals to verify the integrity of our products. It is pertinent to mention that our state-of-the-art dispensing units do not leave any scope for malpractice.
BUSINESSMAG. What about the current projects in the pipeline?
The feasibility study for the Albion jetty and terminal project is under way. This ambitious project has as stakeholders Indian Oil, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd and the State Trading Corporation (STC). Its main objective is the development of Mauritius as a petroleum hub to cater for the African market.
As for the Mer Rouge Oil Storage Terminal (MOST) project, it is likely to be completed by the end of the year. A joint venture between the four main oil companies in Mauritius and the STC, this project is aimed at reducing the risk of scarcity of petroleum products in the country.
BUSINESSMAG. In what way will these projects serve the Government’s ambition of transforming the island into a leading regional petroleum hub?
The petroleum hub is certainly a very ambitious project. It will not only generate employment but will also provide the Government with additional re-venues. The latter plans to achieve economies of scale by bringing in bigger volumes and catering for the needs of identified African countries. The infrastructures that are being set up will also enable Mauritius to increase the amount of fuel sold to bunkers so that it may be recognized as a bunkering hub as well. Around 30,000 ships pass through the Mauritian maritime zone annually and a very small portion of these vessels is currently ta-king fuel here. According to the Government, there is scope to develop business in this area.
BUSINESSMAG. Does your company plan to expand into new markets in the African region?
Africa is one of the most evolving and promising economies for any company looking for good business growth. We are already present in the African region through Mauritius, where IOML is well established and we would now like to spread our wings further.
BUSINESSMAG. How do you intend to rise up to the environmental challenge?
In view of the environmental agreements that have been signed by Mauritius and which attest to the country’s concern at that level, specifications for petroleum products would require to be changed. We are gearing up to that prospect.
Apart from that, we are in the process of powering all our filling stations with solar energy. We also plan to store liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) (Ed. Note, LPG-fuelled vehicles have been shown to be less pollutive than cars running on petrol or diesel) by 2020 and explore the possibility of offering ethanol blends in a near future.