Our own Young Kazhakian, Rony Nair was featured in the the first of ET on Sunday’s series on high-skill professionals who do critical industry jobs that never get talked about. Rony’s profession as a risk assessor and troubleshooter for some of the biggest oil companies, also has him working among among the world’s nastiest spots, along with crazy work hours. And a small mistake by him can have catastrophic effects. The feature was by another Young Kazhakian, Ullekh NP.
Oil cos risk assessor Rony Nair’s workplaces are often among world’s nastiest spots.
– Ullekh NP
Rony Nair is one of those people whose faces you don’t see but only hear about in Syriana, the Hollywood movie on the oil industry starring George Clooney. He is the brainy type who arrives before and after something goes terribly wrong, and that’s usually when the unregretful cowboy types set up shop for an oil company. People like Nair are meant to anticipate trouble with men and machines, and prevent them.
Nair is a senior consultant and regional manager (Middle East and North Africa) with Unaoil, a Monaco-headquartered company known for its expertise in engineering. His skills include well testing (assessing the feasibility of an oil well), and wireline activity (measuring a well’s depth with wires). Nair now leads asset risk management in 20 countries in Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
His company has long-term contracts with Shell, BP and a few local oil giants in parts of MENA. Any new oil find or a client winning a block in the region means his company has to quickly dispatch teams from base camps, mostly located in national capitals and remote sites, to places where clients have secured rights to drill for oil. Or it has to mobilise its team on “call-out orders”, which are bids notified 48 hours before they are picked up by specialists such as Unaoil or Expro, Nair’s previous employer. Big players such as Haliburton and Schlumberger are also actively present in the segment.
Man For All Seasons
Nair is responsible, among other things, for quality of “the kits” that assess new blocks-to-be. These are equipment carried in 40-50 ft-long trailers, and include huge metallic hoses for belching out toxic gases from a well. “Anything can go wrong anytime. Many lives are at stake. You have to be prepared for it all the time,” says Nair. His is the last word when it comes to ensuring the security of the company’s assets.
At work, he often has to be accountable for specific aspects of high-risk activity. “That explains the responsibility part,” Nair says. “It is essentially a 24-hour job. You could be asked to mobilise a team to a particular location at anytime. You have to also constantly usher in new technology and knowledge to ensure quality maintenance.” Nair says he also manages “plenty of pressure from clients”. A minor mistake of his, says this father of two, “can put whole towns in danger…clients may have to shut down operations”. He finds the job “unglamorous and thankless” because “the reward lies in the non-occurrence of undesirables”. “In fact, I get calls only when things go wrong,” says Nair.
On the Road
The pluses? His work takes him to some of the most interesting – and forlorn – places on Earth. Some he loves, like Algeria, the country of his favourite author Albert Camus. “Invaders have wrought havoc there, but the country is still beautiful.”Nair, based in Dubai, won’t talk much about oil industry’s impact on oil-rich countries. But he says, “Unlike in the past when people had to work in highly unsafe environments, oil firms now insist on high quality.” Adds he: “Even a minor injury for a worker is taken seriously, and I have flown down to locations to get workers airlifted to some of the best hospitals.”
He is also responsible for preparing strategy for the company’s PR team to ensure that “nothing objectionable” gets aired about clients.
What does he do during his frequent journeys? He reads voraciously. “From home to airport to airport to location, I get a lot of time to read.” Nair is married to the late Congress veteran K Karunakaran’s granddaughter Aishwarya. He says he wishes for more “downtime with family”. But he is happy. The oil industry pays its high-skilled pros who do high-risk work very well.