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ONGC Everest Summit- From 3000 m below to 8800 m above

In a unique Human Resource initiative, a homegrown team of amateurs from ONGC scales Mount Everest to reach the top of the world

ONGC The biggest Indian crude oil producer, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) has fuelled big news on another turf – Mountaineering. It is literally a tall order in Human Resource Development (HRD), given that it was a homegrown team of amateur mountaineers, inspired and transformed by the unique motivational and engaging culture of this oil major, which scaled the Mount Everest.

Apart from building HR capacity across the entire oil & gas value chain, ONGC’s claim to fame now resides in expanding its unlimited HR potential. ONGC’s in-house mountaineering outfit, ONGC Himalayan Association, has been around for decades together, since the oil major found mountaineering as a natural extension of its geological rendezvous with the Himalayan foothills, near Dehradun.

Adventure has been in the DNA of every ONGCian. This association has grown bigger and deeper over the years, with members making several climbs to various mountain peaks. However, in 2015, Director (Human Resource) Desh Deepak Misra stoked a bold dream among the young ONGCians to conquer a big feat. If ONGC can drill down to over 3000 meters below the sea in search of oil, why can’t it reach the top of the world to discover a new potential? This move fuelled a ‘Can Do’ spirit among the youngsters of the Maharatna energy major, which soon snowballed into a unique and passionate Employee Engagement initiative.

The adventurous DNA showed up among most of the 33,000 plus ONGC employees when the call for forming this Team was made. Though no employee believed on Day One that it was possible to scale Mount Everest, the aspiration was nevertheless born. Through a series of inspiring messages broadcast through the intranet web portal of ONGC, Director (HR) Misra kept motivating the youngsters to join this mission.

The Transformation Begins After Successful Mount Everest summit

ONGC's Everest Team

The aspiration started to gain confidence in the team’s successful completion of the Everest Base Camp Trek in October 2015. This success was the initial energizer and ONGC CMD D.K. Sarraf exhorted all team members to target nothing less than the Mount Everest. The confidence grew and thus the transformation began. A stage-wise training cum selection program was administered with the professional help of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) led by Col. HS Chauhan.

An 11-member Everest Expedition Team spearheaded by Expedition leader Captain SK Sangwan and a support team was selected from a group of 150 ONGC employees, after a rigorous stage-wise selection process. ONGC Team Everest was completely holistic and inclusive in having appropriate gender representation; in the sense to select Captain SK Sangwan, a Kargil war veteran, wearing an artificial leg (a Person with Disabilities) - as the Expedition Leader, engineers, and scientists – all amateur in mountaineering – but engaged with the organizational mission.

ONGC Everest Expedition

The bigger mission was to build a unique HR initiative to act as an example for the 33,000 ONGCians, and generations thereafter, to set their sight on. The team undertook intensive training designed by IMF for over 16 months, involving a 5 km run within 25 minutes, 19-km Endurance trek in mountains, 14-day Adventure course, 28-day Basic mountaineering course, and 30-day Advanced mountaineering course, to be guided by an experienced 5-time Everester and Padma Shri Loveraj Singh Dharmshaktu, Assistant Commandant, BSF.

Team ONGC was ready for the expedition to reach the top of the world. The training exposed them to the pervasive harsh conditions encountered during high altitude expeditions and also developed the holistic leadership traits that will run through the future of Maharatna ONGC. Rechristened as ONGC Eco Everest Expedition, the mission was flagged off on 27 March, 2017, by the Hon’ble Minister of State, Independent Charge Dharmendra Pradhan.

Mount Everest summit

The Climb The Team started its 9-day journey on foot after arriving at one of the most dangerous airports in the world at Lukla towards Everest Base Camp. Director (Human Resources) Desh Deepak Misra and Director (Technology & Field Services) Shashi Shanker traveled to Namche Bazaar in North East Nepal to encourage the ONGC Everest expedition team to start the ascent.

A 24x7 Mission Control room was made at the ONGC Corporate office in Delhi to monitor and track the Team’s minute to minute progress. It was a tryst with destiny for the well-knit ONGC team of amateur mountaineers. After around a month of the grueling climb, finally at 06:15 hours on 27 May, 2017, ONGC became one of the first corporates (and the first public enterprise) in the world to have its independent team scale the highest point on this planet – the mighty Sagarmatha/ Chomolungma/ Mount Everest. Yogendra Garbiyal, N Jagoi, Rahul Journal, Santosh Kumar, Nirmal Kumar and Prabhat Gaurav achieved this unique feat with the support of expedition leader Captain Sangwan, the team doctor Dr. Nitin Chawla, Lady support member Dr. Ritu Sharma and under the astute guidance of Padma Shri Loveraj Singh Dharmshaktu, Assistant Commandant (BSF) representing the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF). In an exemplary display of integrated teamwork, two team members viz. Monti and Tomar aborted their climb in the last leg, to enhance the overall chances of the other members.

ONGC employee engagement programs

Collecting garbage under ‘Swachh Himalaya Abhiyan’ was an interesting part of this expedition, ONGC helped Nepal Government in removing tons of solid wastes that are littered on the Everest peak. The ONGC Team brought back that garbage from the peak, working as the ‘Green Himalayan Ambassadors’ under the aegis of ‘Swachh Himalaya Abhiyan’, drawing inspiration from ‘Swachhta Abhiyan’ pioneered by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.

A Lesson in Team Engagement- Unique Employee Engagement

While the frontend of this expedition has been its complete success, the backend is rooted in developing Team Spirit among the employees – the oil soldiers of the energy-starved nation. ONGC believes in empowering its employees and continuously pushing them, and this expedition offers invaluable insights into leadership and teamwork. The difficult circumstances test the team to the limit and demand close collaboration to achieve the common goal. Peak Performance is only possible with real teamwork. It was this team spirit which proved to be a key success factor for the expedition team. The collaborative qualities developed during this expedition will surely enable team members to succeed par excellence in their professional careers. In words of the Expedition Leader Capt. Sangwan, “In a true testament of team spirit, group effort, and indomitable spirit, two of the team members – Monti and Tomar, gave their sacrifice for the team, as they willingly decided to abort their climb, which enhanced their team members’ chances to move ahead to the summit.” Edmund Hillary aptly said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” True, the ONGC Team conquered their inner selves to scale their highest potential. With this unique employee engagement HR initiative and the ‘Can Do’ spirit, energy major ONGC has demonstrated that passion can transform us and enable us to complete Mount Everest Expedition, be it dropping to the depths of the Earth for national energy security or climb to the top of the world for national glory.