Bharatendu Deo: A Charismatic Luminary
Team Monday Morning caught up with Bharatendu Deo, an alumnus of NIT Rourkela, Electrical Engineering batch of 1985. Currently serving as the Head, Maintenance Engineering, at Qatargas, Qatar (The largest LNG company in the world), he was on a visit to the campus recently. A person with great humility he shared his experiences with Team MM over a cup of coffee.Here are the excerpts from the interview.
MM: Tell us about your early years and life. What memories do you recollect and fondly look back on today? Kindly shed some light on your school days.
BD: I grew up in Koraput. I used to love playing games. Hockey, football, cricket, athletics, and badminton; I was active in all of them. Though I was a good student, I used to take part in a lot of extra-curricular activities such as debates. As a child, I was very obedient to all the teachers and parents but, naughty otherwise (chuckles). Overall, my childhood was completely full of fun and growing up in Koraput was amazing.
MM: What made you choose NIT Rourkela as opposed to the other institutions?
BD: During those times, there were only two engineering colleges in Odisha; one was in Burla and the other was REC. There were around 360 seats in REC and around 50 percent of them were reserved for the students from Odisha. As many as 70,000 students used to apply to these colleges and hence, getting into REC was a really tough task and when we got in, we celebrated to the fullest.
MM: You graduated in Electrical Engineering from NIT Rourkela (the then REC). Why did you choose Electrical engineering? Is it that you always wanted or fate had it in store for you?
BD: I chose electrical primarily because there were not many choices at that time. I am really happy with my decision and my career still revolves around the core electrical branch. The electrical machine labs and equipment were really good even back in my time here.
MM: Elaborate on your life at NIT Rourkela. Are there any anecdotes of some notable experiences that you would like to share?
BD: We had loads of notable and great experience here. Though we used to think of ourselves as a group of intellectuals, the people outside the institute were kind of scared of us. We were titled as the ‘Rengcolians’. The hostels were divided year wise. Students studying in separate years were allotted different hostels. The mess was good as compared to the rest of the institutes across the country and we were given diverse food options. I was the captain of the hockey team here and I also used to play cricket and football. I used to be regular to the gym and also participated in marathons. I used to play the mouth organ and hence, I was a part of the orchestra also. I believe taking part in extra-curricular activities is as important as doing good in academics. I was involved in games, sports, music and a variety of activities. All these things help you to build your personality, sync and talk in various groups. The main reason I believe the bright students aren’t sound in their studies is due to their overindulgence in social media. It’s better if you go out and talk and get yourselves involved in outdoor activities. We were involved in a lot of outdoor activities and we had so much fun and adventure throughout those four years of our stay here. The spring festival (now called as NITRUTSAV) actually started from our batch. So we were the pioneers of that college festival. We had a lot of indigenous talent and many of our batchmates would perform.
MM: As an Electrical Engineer, what were your career prospects back then?
BD: All the core branches have great career prospects. Nowadays, most of the students are going for IT related fields whereas, in our times, everyone used to opt for the disciplines that they were exclusively interested in. Though I have branched out, I started my career in a core electrical field. In spite of pursuing PhD in Engineering Management and an MBA, I still stayed in the engineering sector.
MM: Please tell us about your experiences after graduating from NIT Rourkela.
BD: I got into the Electro Steel Castings during the campus placements where the salary offered was 1850 rupees. Back in our time, very few people would get campus placements. Regardless, I didn’t take up the job. I decided to try to go for an MBA but during my preparations, I got a call from National Aluminium Company (NALCO). I decided to take up on their offer. I stayed there for five years after which I wanted to do something different. I decided to go out and got a job in Aluminium Bahrain which is located in Bahrain. I worked there for 3 years. Then I joined Qatar Liquefied Gas company. I have been working here for the past 20 years. For a couple of years, I was posted in Japan and Paris. The project I was working on there was a major expansion project and I was leading the electric discipline. The duration of that project was around 3 to 4 years. After that, I returned to Qatar, where I am currently based. Right now, I’m the head of Maintenance Engineering. Before this, I was in Project Engineering. There are four stages of engineering: Front- End Engineering Design, Detail Engineering, Construction, and Maintenance. In Maintenance we take care of all the requirements like piping and whatever is else is needed across all disciplines. We are the biggest Liquid Natural Gas in the world. In fact, we produce 77 million tons overall out of which around 7.5 tons is exported to India. LNG is a compressed form of Methane. It is shipped and distributed in that form in order to fuel electricity. I did my MBA from Strathclyde University, Glasgow in U.K. (2002) and after that my Doctorate in Engineering Management from University of Southern Queensland (2014).
MM: You have 20+ years of experience in professional leadership. What are the challenges that come with the job? And what are the essential skills that you advise future leaders to possess?
BD: You will never learn when things are easy. Every time you face a difficulty, you should take it as an opportunity to learn. This is what gives you a chance to develop and face exposure. You should grab those opportunities as that is how you will develop both personally and professionally. Also, you always have to remember to work as a team and not a group. As a team, each and every member has the same objective. So, a good manager should make sure that this happens. They must be a leader first and manager next. A team member must never fear to approach the manager. There should be no gap amongst the team and manager.
I have seen great teamwork when I was in Japan. Although they have one leader, everyone is a contributor. They take their time to discuss each problem and come up with a solution together. If someone has a solution, no one keeps it to themselves to take credit. Every step of your career is an opportunity. We should never shy away from problems as it is that experience that will help you throughout life. At the end of the day, it is important to take varied responsibilities and face all problems. You should be at a stage to teach someone. Another thing I like to do is stay with the younger generation. This helps me brush up on my knowledge and broaden my horizons. In changing times, it is important to think differently and this definitely helps.
MM: How recently did you visit the institute?
BD: My wife hails from Rourkela so I come back every year. I make it a point to visit the campus. Sometimes I go and sit alone at the back post while other times I watch the kids playing basketball. I feel like playing with them but I don’t know if I can catch up.
MM: How much has the institute changed since the time you graduated from here?
BD: There is a massive difference in the institute from our time. The entire campus population was about 800 to 900 people during our time. There were only 5 hostels and 1 ladies’ hostel. Now you have so many hostels and facilities for recreation. For entertainment, on Sunday mornings, we would cycle out and try to catch old Hindi movies. (chuckles) Back in our time, the outsiders were scared of the Rengcolians.
MM: What is your opinion about the current status of student-alumni relationship? How do you think the present scenario of alumni interaction can be improved?
BD: I am an active member of the Alumni Association. I regularly attend the meetings held in Qatar. Although we only have a small group in Qatar, we have tried to generate funds for the 2010 Golden Jubilee Meet and others. But I think we can do better. There have been many graduates over the years but many are not a part of the association. Even if they are, they are not very active. Most people don’t have a lot of affinity to the institute once they pass out. There are a very few that feel for the institute. To generate an alumni corpus fund of 1 crore INR in 2010, it was quite difficult. If everyone really wants to give back, there can be a great improvement.
The Alumni Association has supported many students though. One such example is by giving students the chance to present their projects abroad. We, all the Electrical Department Alumni, have recently started an Endowment Chair in the name of Prof. A.K Mohanty who was the HOD in our time. We have collected 1 crore INR for this initiative. If all alumni take up such initiatives, the institute will develop a lot.
MM: Few words of inspiration for the NITR junta.
Nowadays, you are in the information age. At our time we didn’t have as much information as you do. Stay away from social media and make use of all the other resources. Think big and be honest as well as self-confident. Take up as much responsibility as possible. Always believe that you are the best person for the job. This will take you a long way in life!