ONGC’s coronation at the Sportstar Aces Awards, being judged the ‘Best PSU for the Promotion of Sports’, couldn’t have come at a better time, with the energy behemoth dedicating a significant number of resources to the development of the country’s sporting culture. Be it scholarships in the range of ₹15,000-30,000 or an impressive ₹8 crore dedicated to their 2022 sports budget, ONGC supports a range of indoor and outdoor sportspersons, including the 800 players who benefited from their training camps across the country. Now with this award in their kitty, the company’s chairman, Arun Kumar Singh, spoke at length with Sportstar about their achievements last year, upcoming plans and their long-term vision.
Q. Looking back at 2022, what are the major achievements with respect to ONGC’s sports policy that the corporate entity is proud of?
A. With policies that keep up with the times, ONGC has been able to on-board talent from the grassroots level and train and develop them into world class players. To incentivise and encourage our sportspersons, ONGC has continuously enhanced its fiscal rewards for medals at national and international levels.
With several other such initiatives supported by dynamic policies, ONGC sportspersons had a very successful year in 2022. They made the country proud by winning various national and international tournaments in different sporting arenas. The highlight of the preceding year, however, was when our badminton player H. S. Prannoy joined the elite club of Arjuna Awardees in November.
We also had a successful run at the Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham, U.K. Our table tennis players G. Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai won gold in doubles, while badminton player Ashwini Ponappa clinched silver in a mixed-team event. Hockey players Gurjant Singh and Mandeep Singh won silver among men’s hockey teams.
Besides the Commonwealth Games, ONGCians also proved their mettle in other global sporting events. Badminton player H.S. Prannoy was part of the Thomas Cup winning squad in Bangkok. Pankaj Advani won the IBSF World Billiards Championship in Kuala Lumpur in October. Rashmi Kumari emerged as the World Champion at the 8th World Carrom Championship in Langkawi, Malaysia, in October. In fact, she is a three-time World Champion, and has been National Champion 11 times.
In chess, Grandmaster K. Shasikaran won the Liffre International Open Chess Tournament held in France in October 2022. Shiva Thapa finished with a silver in the lightweight category at ASBC Asian Boxing Championship in Jordan in November. In fact, he almost consecutively won medals six times at Asian Boxing Championship in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021, and in 2022.
Q. What are the major events ONGC Sports is looking forward to organising in the coming years?
A. We have the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) sporting events coming up next year, for which we are the hosts in 2024. Last year, we successfully organised the Fourth ONGC Para Games, which we had pioneered earlier. Likewise, this year, we are geared up to host a lot of internal sports events as well, for our employees and their families. We also partner with major sporting events held across the country. In 2022, we extended our support to Davis Cup (Tennis) and DGC Open Golf Tournament.
Q. NGC has, in the past, held sports training camps for the wards of its employees. What is the vision regarding promising talent coming out of these camps?
A. We have always been committed to organising training camps for our employees and their wards to promote sporting culture and by extension help them to lead a healthy lifestyle and have a good work-life balance. We have noticed that these camps, over the years, have remarkably helped them in increasing their confidence levels and developing a holistic perspective towards life. Many of our wards, who were once part of these camps, are now playing at the State and national levels.
Q. The list of ONGCians over time has had big names like Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma, Ashwini Ponappa, HS Prannoy, Pankaj Advani, and G Sathiyan among others. Does ONGC plan to continue signing elite athletes or does it have a plan to award sports scholarships to budding sportspersons in the near future as well?
A. ONGC takes pride in its established sports stars as well as budding talents. We announced 250 sports scholarships in 2022 and have pumped up our funding in scholarships. We are assessing the response right now, and we will draw up plans to increase the number of scholarships to support more and more sportspersons gradually.
Q. As part of its social commitment, ONGC had promised to promote sports in rural areas in and around its field of operations. How is that project shaping up?
A. Based on the popularity of sports in particular areas, our work centres, some of which are in remote locations of India, organise different supporting activities to engage with the local people. We have provided scholarships to both women and men in Kabaddi, Volleyball, Wrestling, Boxing, Hockey, Archery, among others.
Q. Please give us an insight into ONGC Sports’ vision and mission. Are there any long-term dream projects it is looking to undertake?
A. Plans are afoot to develop sports infrastructure at our work centres to benefit both our employees as well as budding sportspersons at the local grassroots levels. As mentioned earlier, we are working on increasing the number of scholarships we give away every year to spot committed and aspiring sports talent and be of help to them financially. We believe in dreaming big; we are nurturing a dream of putting India on the World soccer map, and hope to achieve it in the near future.
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