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Babus turn high-paid honchos

business Updated: Feb 09, 2013 01:46 IST
Anupama Airy

Life begins at 60. This is true for many public sector employees and bureaucrats who joined the corporate sector after retirement and are earning more than three to four times of what they did in their last-held government posts.

And they swap their trademark white ambassadors for fancy sedans or luxury cars.

When RS Sharma retired as the chairman of India's largest public sector company, ONGC two years back, when his annual salary package was about Rs 60 lakh. After a short cooling-off period, he joined as the Southwest Asia head of Lloyd's Register, a global business insurance company, and now earns more than Rs 2 crore a year. That's a three-fold rise.

Sharma said he was flooded with offers from the likes of Reliance, Essar and the Hindujuas after retirement. "But I wanted to give myself a year of cooling off before I started again."

Sharma is not alone. In the past five years, people like him jumping ship from the public sector to lucrative offers is on the rise. Some do it even before the official age of retirement. In fact, that is the emerging trend (See graphic)

"Private sector acknowledges leadership and competence and so the offers vary anywhere between Rs 1 crore and 4 crore per annum and some even more," said a top corporate executive.

"Earlier bureaucrats use to look at joining the private sector only after they retired but there are many now at a senior level who are ready to take risks and leave the power and charms offered by civil services," said the HR head of a leading corporate house.

"The domain experience, talent, corporate governance, you name it and they bring along," said Adi Malia, group president, HR at the Essar Group, which employs half-a-dozen former public sector or government leaders.

Among the early jumpers are Prabh Das who left as joint secretary (refineries) in the petroleum ministry to join steel czar LN Mittal's energy business as MD of HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd. Das is the man who steered the Rs 20,000-crore plus Bathinda refinery project in Punjab.

There are risks involved in leaving the government, particularly in foregoing some pension and medical benefits, but the money is a big lure.

Rajiv Talwar 58, executive director at realty major DLF resigned from the government in 2006 when he was the additional director-general in the ministry of tourism to join DLF.

"There is a huge pool of talent inside and even if 10% of this moves out to the private sector, there will still be a lot of talent left to serve the government…but the shift should be when you are happy with the system and not otherwise," Talwar told HT.

IAS officer Ashok Kumar Khurana left as additional secretary in the power ministry to join the Jai Prakash Group's JPSK Sports Ltd's as vice-chairman to steer its Formula 1 track project in Greater Noida and is now director-general of industry lobby group Associated Power Producers association.

"It's not always the money. Some do it for personal reasons to avoid frequent transfers to remote places," Khurana told HT.

The list of hoppers includes NTPC's human resources head KK Sinha who joined Reliance ADAG, former MRPL finance director Lali Gupta who is now MD at Essar Oil and SAIL's Malay Mukerjee who is part of L.N. Mittal's steel empire.

The list gets longer as levels below the CXO are considered. But the trend is clear. Sarkari leadership is no longer the be-all and end-all.