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June 20, 1998


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And the VSNL chairman is... When the name was whispered behind closed doors in New Delhi, Rediff was listening in.

Priya Ganapati

Email this story to a friend. Brushing aside the 'what', 'where', 'when' and 'how' of news writing, let us give you only the 'who'.

Narinder Sharma.

The 54-year-old Department of Telecommunications engineer is, right now, on deputation at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Serving as a secretary, Sharma is the senior-most bureaucrat there.

His candidature was the least obvious on the shortlist of seven for the chairmanship of the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited.

But very senior sources within the heart of the great Indian bureaucracy have confirmed that the Public Enterprise Selection Board has recommended Sharma for the top job.

Now it is mere formality and about six weeks before the appointment is blessed with ink on paper.

Sharma is set to inherit a troubled legacy. The exit of his predecessor, B K Syngal, was unceremonious. It has left VSNL fractured along lines of personal loyalties. In this aftermath, the single largest challenge for Sharma would be to battle the enemy within, the raging HRD crisis.

But those who know Sharma well are not worried. His former colleague and an old friend from college days, N K Mangla, deputy director general (regulation), DoT, told Rediff "He has excellent leadership qualities. We (DoT) had posted him in the telecommunications ministry during the tenure of (former communications minister) Sukh Ram. He was given the sensitive portfolio of personnel. He handled it very well. He was a deputy director general here just before leaving for TRAI."

Mangla is unrestrained in his praise. "He is an excellent person. He is one of the most outstanding senior officers of the department. He has worked with Hindustan Cables at Naini in Allahabad and has served on the VSNL board for some time. He was also in charge of the training centre of DoT at Ghaziabad."

Business decisions in the IT industry are becoming increasingly critical to an understanding of the technology at hand. When the shortlist for the top job was scooped by Rediff on July 8, there was criticism that not a single technocrat appeared on it.

Mangla assures that "Sharma has very good technical knowledge. He is an engineer by profession and has worked on many technical issues in DoT. Besides, he is a good administrator too."

Sharma has won his nomination against stiff competition from:

Lakshmi Menon, Hindustan Teleprinters chairman;
A S Bansal, Telecom Consultants India chief;
B R Khurana, Department of Telecommunications' nominee on the VSNL board;
Ramesh Chandra, a senior DoT officer;
B D Khurana, Bharti Telenet executive director and former Optel chairman and
Ashok Kumar, CGM, DoT, Ahmedabad.


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