Sunday, April 27, 2008

‘Don’t Compete with the World, rather compete with yourself'

Areeb Khan in joyous mood

26-year old Areeb Khan, a graduate of Jamia Millia Islamia and Indian Institute of Management (IIM, Calcutta), is the first Muslim to found a website for Citizen Journalism. He dumped his fat cheque job to tread a path which has been less travelled. Excerpts from an interview.

Q: You had a wonderful career of fat pay-cheques. What made you start Isn’t it unconventional wisdom?

A: Being in the top 20% at IIM C, I definitely had fat pay cheques for the duration that I worked with even fatter pay cheques in the near distance. However, the desire to do something on my own and also to make a difference is what made me take up Purdafash. Whether it can be called wisdom or not would depend on how successful we become, but unconventional it definitely is.

Q: Why Purdafash? Kindly elaborate how you managed to start the website and purpose behind it.

A: Purdafash is a very well thought out and carefully rolled out product. The site combines the concepts of Citizen Journalism and Social Networking in a focused way so as to solve the problems of people like you and me. The purpose behind starting Purdafash is to earn money while doing good of the people around us. The site has been launched on the basic premise that there is a bit of “good” hidden among all of us. So the website intends, in the future, to become a platform where all the good forces can unite.

Q: Do you think that Purdafash will survive given that it will not be depend on “senseless advertising” and “corporate charity”?

A: Yes, we strongly believe that not only will Purdafash survive but even go on to become a very powerful force on the Indian media horizon. The product has behind it a very sound business model tested under various scenarios which will eventually help it to survive against competition. As for advertising, we intend to introduce to India an advertising paradigm which is very popular in the West but has not yet touched Indian shores. And yes, we would never depend on corporate charity for our funds but at the same time Purdafash intends to blur the line between the social and the economic so the very definition of “charity” might undergo a sea of change once we are successful.

Q: Your academic life at Jama Millia Islamia and IIM Calcutta?

A: I graduated in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Jamia Millia Islamia with a silver medal and went to work in a flourishing startup Nagarro Inc. In the 2 years that I spent at the company, I rose to become the Head of India Marketing team before deciding to pursue MBA from IIM Calcutta. During my two years at IIM Calcutta, I was instrumental in getting off the ground IIM Calcutta’s flagship marketing festival- CENSUS and was part of the core team that turned around the Annual Entrepreneurship festival from being a small, intra campus event into an All India event. I was also awarded the Best Project Award by the Social Work Group at IIM Calcutta and People for Animals for developing a Business that would improve the lives of rural India.

Q: What’s the motto that drives you?

A: I don’t compete with the world- rather compete with myself. I feel the standards that I set for myself are much higher than what the world expects out of me. So I try to exceed my own expectations everyday- that’s what keeps me going.

Q: Do you think Muslim youth can play an important role in promoting citizen journalism?

A: Absolutely! I think Muslim youth are just as good as any in the world and they can definitely play an important role by highlighting the problems that we face as a community everyday.

Q: Any message for Muslim community especially Muslim youth?

A: Just believe that you are the best, get as educated as possible and strive constantly to be twice as good as the person next to you.

Q: Your family background?

A: My parents hail from Aligarh and both are government servants. They are both doctorates and have always placed a premium on education. I have a younger sister who is presently completing her schooling.

'Muslim Community must come forward for acquiring technical knowledge'

Prof. A.I. Wasif: A man of inspiration and imitation

51-year old Prof. (Dr.) Akil Iqbal Wasif is a shining example of an excellence-in-constant-motion. A product of Malegaon’s Marathi medium school – whose family had nothing to do with textiles – went on to become first Muslim In-charge Principal of Asia’s largest Textile College at Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur District. Excerpts from an interview.

Q: When did you get appointed at DKTES Textile College? What was your position before joining this institute?

A: I joined DKTE’s Textile and Engineering Institute in 1983 as a lecturer on Diploma side. Prior to this, I have worked in Morarjee Goculdas Spinning and Weaving Mills (Mumbai) as a Technical Officer and S.B.M. Engineering (Mumbai) as a Marketing Executive.

Q: In which subject you have done PhD?

A: I did my Ph. D. in 1998 and my area of specialization was ‘Green Technology in Textile Processing.’ I have worked on reducing the water consumption, steam consumption and electricity consumption. This has successfully resulted in substantial reduction in pollution load due to Textile Processing.

Q: Your achievement and contribution to textile industry?

A: As far as my research in textiles is concerned, I have presented 75 papers at national and international conferences. More than 150 papers of mine have been published in national and international journals. I have figured in Marquis Who’s Who in the World, America’s leading biographical publisher. I have been a recipient of International Biographical Centre’s (Cambridge, England) 21st Century award for outstanding achievements. I have provided consultancy to leading textile companies including Grasim, Wel Spun and Siam Synthetic (Thailand). I have designed 8 Effluent Treatment Plants for treating textile waste water. More than 50 organizations are availing my expertise in effluent treatment, water and energy conservation, product development, process modification. I have provided community services to unemployed youth and women from weaker sections of society.

Q: What should be done to uplift weaving community of Malegaon and Bhiwandi?

A: Like Ichalkaranji weavers, the weaving community of Malegaon and Bhiwandi must make an attempt to switch over from plain powerlooms to Automatic / Shuttles technology and manufacture niche products. Various training programmes and seminars must be organized which will change the mindset of weavers. If weavers of Malegaon and Bhiwandi come forward to modernize their textile sector, I would extend my whole-hearted support. Both the textile centres must establish a textile college.

Q: Your message to Muslim community?

A: Muslim Community must come forward for acquiring technical knowledge. I think Urdu high Schools / Junior Colleges will have to do lot of counselling and encourage the Muslim students to opt for higher studies. By the grace of Almighty Allah, I could achieve this position due to sustained hard work and honesty. Muslims must start believing in their own abilities as they too are immensely talented. I request all our students to come forward and pursue education against all odds. We need to have positive frame of mind, Insha Allah we will succeed in all walks of life.

Q: Your family background?

A: My father Iqbal Ahmed Wasif was a social worker. Paternal grandfather Mr. Gulabmiya was a social worker and maternal grandfather Mr. Hasan Khan was Deputy Collector. I did my schooling in Marathi medium from Municipal high school. We are four brothers and two sisters, all of them are highly qualified in their respective fields. My father and mother took personal interest in my upbringing and education. I did my graduation in Science stream (B.Sc.) from Malegaon’s M.S.G. College. I left Malegaon at the age of 21 for higher studies at MUICT, Mumbai.

Q: Your motivator and source of inspiration?

A: My father Iqbal Ahmed Wasif was a constant source of inspiration and great motivator. It was he who made up my mind to pursue textile education at Mumbai. My higher education at MUICT helped me a lot in my personality development and developing competitive spirit.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Saudi Aramco and ADNOC in the World's Most Sustainable Oil Companies Report

New Begining: Saudi Aramco and ADNOC

Spain-based management rating and research firm Management and Excellence (M&E) has recently released its 5th annual report titled “Most Sustainable Oil/Gas Companies 2008” that helps leading Oil companies benchmark against each other. This particular ranking, marketed with Oil & Gas Journal Online, measures oil/gas companies’ factual compliance with 400 accepted international standards in sustainability, ethics, social responsibility, governance and transparency.

The ratings covers 20 select leading Oil & Gas companies to benchmark each other which includes Total, Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and for the first time Saudi Aramco and ADNOC.

Purpose & Approach of Ranking

The basic purpose of the report, according to Dr. William Cox, Managing Director, of M&E, is to “tell oil/gas companies their level of objective compliance with nearly 400 international standards.” The study has been billed as “the most comprehensive and detailed of studies covering sustainability in the industry.”

The international standards against which the ranking is compiled and generated are based on standards set by institutions such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Global Compact, U.N. Millennium Goals, OECD, International Labor Organisation, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, ISO, Sarbanes-Oxley, NYSE and others.

M&E surveyed all companies and researched public information services to determine actual point-by-point compliance with these standards. All percentages refer to the number of points with which a company complies out of a total of over 387. To make the report accurate, M&E distributed exhaustive questionnaires containing 60 questions to the leading oil/gas companies worldwide. The companies were asked to return it; failing which M&E would use its own research to compile the report.

Each year M&E redefines the report’s criteria, adapting them to where the industry is going. For example, this year M&E added a number of points for a reserve replacement ratio over 100 plus points for the number of years a company’s proven underdeveloped reserves will last.

Petrobas Leads in 'Sustainability'

Petrobras of Brazil has emerged as “the Most Sustainable Oil/Gas Company of 2008” and has been ranked No.1 in the report. Petrobras’ miraculous rise in the M&E ranking is an amazing case. When M&E started this study 5 years ago, Petrobras was among the “weakest companies” especially in terms of performance towards the environment and in its employee relations. Dr. Cox recalled one particular incident about Petrobras.

“I recall sitting in the Varig lounge in Sao Paulo in 2003 and watching a program on Brazilian TV reviewing the biggest environmental debacles of Petrobras, of which its sinking platform received the most international attention,” he said. But this was only one case.

“In fact, Petrobras, the State-run company, was a ‘dirty company’ in terms of its spills, environmental transgressions and suffering from regular strikes among its employees,” Dr. Cox told DinarStandard. But in 2006, Petrobras jumped to 2nd place in M&E ranking and retained its spot in 2007 as well. In 2008, the company climbed the ranking ladder and became No.1 by a small margin.

Common Features of Most Sustainable Oil Companies

Petrobras (No.1), Total (No.2), and Pemex (No.12) have been the “most dynamic improvers” while Statoil (No.4) and Shell (No.5) have been termed as “the most solid performers.” At No. 3, BP has been an ultimate “rebounder.”

The leaders in oil/gas companies have some common features:
Companies have been growing and increasing production, which makes it difficult to improve H&S (Health and Safety) rates, but Statoil (100%), Shell (83%) and Marathon (83%) have succeeded.

Petrobras and Statoil have reduced fatalities, accidents and other problems by improving their supplier management by 100%. Shell, Total, BP and ConcoPhilips have reduced it by 83%.
Petrobras (100%), Total (100%), BP (95%), Shell (95%) and Statoil (95%) have the most detailed environmental policies.

Leading companies like Petrobras, Shell, Total and ExxonMobil have received more external recognition in the form of awards or were at the top at the most important rankings in most of the areas relating to the oil/gas industry.

Saudi Aramco and ADNOC: Weak in Corporate Governance but strong in Health & Safety

The two leading oil companies in Muslim-majority countries are the state-owned Saudi Aramco and ADNOC (AbuDhabi National Oil Company) which have fared weak overall, particularly in corporate governance but they did better in HSE (Health & Safety) and HSE transparency. In general, companies that controlled the largest oil/gas reserves demonstrated the poorest governance and sustainability practices. The three state corporations PDVSA (state-owned Venezuelan oil company), Saudi Aramco and AbuDhabi NOC in part scored lowest in governance but together control 430 billion barrels of oil, compared with ConocoPhilips´ 9.4 billion or ExxonMobil´s 22.7 billion.

But Dr. Cox is optimistic. “Poor governance,” he said, “does not necessarily mean poor management.”

“Most management processes are covered under Sustainability,” he said.

Dr. Cox also shared one interesting insight as to why Saudi Aramco and ADNOC have suffered in their report ranking. The governance standards in M&E study are mainly those pertaining to companies listed in the USA and Europe, covering such aspects as shareholder rights and independence of board members.

“These obviously do not fit well with the family/state-run businesses in the Arab world,” Dr. Cox told DS.

Dr. Cox said that he would not want to argue that the governance standard of USA and Europe should apply to Arabian oil/gas companies.

“These are standards required by investors buying stock in a company,” he said.

On the brighter side, Saudi Aramco and ADNOC have beefed up their transparency on HSE (Health and Safety), technical and human resource programs. ADNOC, for example, details in its HSE policy, “a systematic approach to HSE management designed to ensure compliance with Abu Dhabi and U.A.E Laws and Regulations and adopted local and international standards.”

They implement this policy through a documented Health, Safety and Environment Management System (HSEMS) and conduct periodic audits to verify compliance.

ADNOC began implementing a new HSE in 1997 and since 2003 it has published a separate HSE report.

“The 26-page report details ADNOC´s environmental sponsorship projects as well as HSE statistics complying with typical global standards,” Dr. Cox told DS.

ADNOC has improved consistently on TRIP (Total Recordable Incident Rate). In 2002, the rate was 2.96 for the company and 3.08 for contractors. In 2006 these figures were 1.84 and 0.78, respectively.

The same is true in terms of the LTIF (Lost Time Incident Frequency) metric. LTIF has come down drastically from 0.75 in 2002 to 0.60 in 2006 for the company. For contractors it has come down to 0.35 from 0.78.

Saudi Aramco and ADNOC have solid compliance in H & S which includes complying with OSHA standards, handling of hazardous materials in the production process and emergency plans etc.
Both of the companies have done well in supplier quality control. i.e. Supplier management system, Complaint system for suppliers, Objective supplier screening system and Controlling and enforcing reasonable environmental standards among suppliers.

When it comes to the presentation of information, Saudi Aramco and ADNOC have strongly upgraded their websites following globally accepted structures and contents.

The content includes their code of ethics and conduct, regularly updated press releases, confirmed oil reserves, reports and/or papers on world energy topics, annual environmental report etc.

Saudi Aramco and ADNOC: Areas to Improve

Saudi Aramco and ADNOC scored big in having proven biggest Oil reserves but they lose in global sustainability initiatives, which have considerable PR (Public Relation) impact for companies with high profiles in Europe, the USA and Latin America.

Corporate governance is one area in which both the companies need to improve specially in terms of global PR.

However, given the government owned structures, Dr. Cox does not see major drivers for corporate governance changes in the near term. “They will probably not venture into the areas of corporate governance in the foreseeable future,” Dr. Cox told DS.

According to Dr. Cox, both companies could improve in the following:

Publishing more about their human resource policies, including training and performance measurement.

Being more transparent about financials even though they are not listed companies.
Participating in more international sustainability initiatives such as the Global Compact or Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Dr. Cox thinks that both the companies are “doing well in line with their own goals and cultures” but he spells out the differences between Saudi Aramco/ADNOC and such firms as Shell and Total.

First, both companies are not very exposed to critical media and publics as in the others’ markets.

“They need less social PR,” he told DS.

Second, their expansion does not geographically impinge on land or areas occupied by people or rare species.

“Thus, they do not need to generate as much public goodwill,” he said.

Dr. Cox is of the opinion that both the companies do not have to generate goodwill within the government because they belong to the government.

He cited the example of PDVSA of Venezuela which has gone “from bad to worse.”
“It is in line with the overall irresponsible and blind politics of Hugo Chavez and thus is hardly a surprise,” he said.

“Saudi Aramco and ADNOC cannot in any way be compared with the Venezuela/PDVSA case,” he emphasized.

Finally, Saudi Aramco and ADNOC are extractors more than refiners and processors.

“They do not have to worry about searching for and developing alternative energies as Statoil & Company do, whose reserves are much lower,” he advised.

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