J. Muthukumar – Founder, Ajapa, Integrated project Management Consultancy Pvt Ltd

Today Oil defines the world. It can make a country rich or poor, it can bring war or peace, it can bring corruption or growth. Every asepct of our life today is defined and governed by oil. The demand for energy is growing at alarming levels and despite all the talks of alternate sources of energy, OIL and fossil fules contribute more than 87% of world's energy supply (and by year 2035, it will be 82%) and more over oil cannot be replaced by any of the other sources of energy because of its ability to give us fuel for speed/transport and it being a raw material for more than 140,000 products in the world (from nail polish to plastic bucket to car body to high density polythene). Oil is here to stay and its dominance will control the world economy for the next 5-6 decades says J. Muthukumar of our 1984 batch of Chemical Engineering. Muthukumar is a Professional in the oil and gas industry and has had a very successful career since 1985 and is going stronger by the day. He is the Founder of Ajapa Integrated Project Management Consultants Private Limited in 2006, the FIRST Indian oil and gas integrated project management consultancy for well construction (drilling, testing and completion of oil and gas wells) which was dominated until then only by Multi-Nationals. Ajapa grew against stiff competition from international companies and today it is a well known and highly popular company in the oil and gas circle of the Indian, Middle East and African markets. He is also the Founder and Managing Director of Supreme Oil and Gas Consultancy FZC, UAE and www.Petrosity.com, a FIRST of its kind web based oil and gas portal scheduled to be online in Q1, 2014 (pilot tests are running currently), One of the Founders and Director of an indigenous patented (by his own inventions - patent pending from USA) innovative highly technical oil and gas drilling tools manufacturing plant in India and developer of world's FIRST Well Integrity–Well Profiling–Well Reliability model (sparked after the most and world's worst disastrous environment incident of Macondo in Gulf of Mexico in 2010 – that costs INR 2.0 Lakh Crore to BP to rectify and compensate – check Google "Macondo 2010"). His life was centred on overall Growth and expanding his abilities as a professional in the oil and gas industry with sincerity, dedication, commitment and integrity and and many hours of work has taken him to around 33 countries across the globe relating to work as well as pleasure and adventure and established a name known to almost all in the oil well drilling.

Muthukumar, a native of Kancheepuram studied in Chintadripet high school in Chennai, has 6 siblings - 5 sisters and a brother. His father was a civil engineer from the 1952 batch of Anantpur/Warangal University. Muthukumar was always averaging around 70 to 80 percent in academics right from school up to Masters degree. He says academic education is not everything in life but just a stepping stone as an entry in to a career. He believes in overall shaping of a personality and he was indulging in extra curricular activities like writing fiction and poetry, participating in debates, playing cricket, chess, dancing etc and believes his competitive spirit/fire to deliver came from these aspects. He proudly said that he even now plays cricket for a team called Valiant Fighters Cricket Club in Velachery. Muthukumar joined the Chemical Engineering department of Annamalai University in 1979 and graduated in 1984. He says that he had excellent room-mates (two of worth mentioning are S. Ganesh and Murugavel) and all of them were from various parts of TN through whom he had learnt a lot of valuable lessons. Immediately after graduation he wrote GATE, entrance exam conducted by IIT and was able to get admission in IIT Kharagpur to pursue M.Tech - Chemical with Petroleum specialization. On completing his M.Tech he got placement with Oil India Ltd in 1985 and was given a choice to choose between either Crude oil refining plant or LPG or R & D or Drilling, Muthukumar chose "Drilling." This decision was purely taken without a concept of future but based on both his adventurous nature and probably Divine intervention as this decision had changed his life forever as Drilling allowed him to travel to remotest, most challenging and difficult terrains of the world in dense forests, vast deserts and deep oceans apart from providing an excellent growth both career wise and financial front but most critically a vision of the world and the realities of life. The greatest lessons he had learned were "Where there are imperfections, there is no competition. If one knows how to manage the imperfections, then the growth is unlimited" from Bill Gammel, CEO, of Cairn Energy, one of the World's largest successful enterpreneur, "Stand up to challenges, perform to command respect and lead to deliver but never demand respect using status and power" from A.J. Jackson one of the most renouned Oil and Gas personality, "Integrity in Engineering and Excellence in Execution are the fundamental principles to deliver even the most complex of projects" from Tony Beckett probably one of World's best Drilling Engineers and finally "To be Joyful, Positive, Helpful and Respectful to Elders and Children, Standing up against tyranny" from MGR, his beloved inspirational Leader. In fact, this has helped him to stand up continuously through out his career against challenges from Western and Eastern Expats and once he was leading 37 senior level expats in a complex offshore project from 16 countries in the expats only dominated oil and gas industry.

At Oil India Limited, Assam he started his career as Drilling Engineer. However, within 2 years, in 1987 he saw that the conditions in OIL would not aide his growth and he was one of the FIRST to resign from OIL despite the security of a PSU, to take up Assistant Driller job in Aban Lloyds Offshore Limited managed by Americans. Aban was one of the offshore drilling contractor approved by Indian Government which launched its first contract drilling service to ONGC in 1987 with 2 jack-up drilling rigs acquired from the USA. JMK says that his approach to life became very different when he had to work with expats from US, Canada and UK. His face gleams when he spoke of the days he spent with an imposing personality A.J. Jackson, mentioned above, from whom he learned the ever lasting lesson of standing up to challenges. Within 2 years, JMK was promoted as Driller and he became the FIRST Indian Driller in an offshore rig managed by Western Expats. That got him parity with respect to both pay and recognition and made him a true professional as he had learnt the trade from those hard and tough Western Expats. He then grew to the levels of Night Tool Pusher and Tool Pusher in various offshore jack up rigs.

JMK, after around 5 years in Aban, moved to Essar for a growth oriented career change where he was deputed to PDO (SHELL) in Oman as Wellsite Drilling Engineer. Until 1992, Indians in oil and gas drilling industry (except those who were born and brought up in their entire life in USA or UK) occupiped only up to the middle management level in contractor rigs. Due to the Drilling in the 90's concept developed by SHELL to manage the growing industry standards with tight budget control with oil prices hovering less than US$ 20/bbl, for the first time, high end engineering jobs in drilling opened up internationally for Indians in 1992-93. JMK was the second Indian well site drilling engineer chosen on an experimental basis for Oman. However, owing to the performance of JMK and two other Indian Engineers (Ashwani and Milind), SHELL was convinced to recruit more Indians in this field and by 1995, Indians dominated the well site engineer roles in entire Oman which then expanded to other Middle East countries. JMK mentioned an incident when he was first introduced to a Dutch (Kees De Koing) in SHELL, he was given a pathetic look as Kees was seeing an Indian as drilling engineer for the first time in his life and he did not believe Indians are capable. However, within 6 months JMK proved his calibre and became Kees most favourite engineer which then led to JMK's promotion as Senior Drilling Engineer at Muscat office where he managed several projects for onshore blocks in South, North and Central Oman until 1997 and was a pioneer in establishing incentive based drilling contracts for Shell in Oman. By that time, JMK understood that further growth in Shell would be limited. Despite a very attractive and extremely good salary with comfortable life in Muscat, for the want of value based growth, JMK moved to Cairn energy Plc, an independent Edinburgh based UK Oil and Gas Company, as Senior Drilling Engineer. He says that his tenure with Cairn energy was the most wonderful and highly rewarding experience particularly working under Bill Gammell, CEO, Rich Paces the Country Manager and Tony Beckett who was Head of Drilling, where he was promoted 5 times in his 6 years in Cairn. JMK became the FIRST Indian Drilling Superintendent for a multi-national Operator for an offshore gas block in Bangladesh in 1999. He then became the FIRST Indian Drilling Manager to handle a deep water exploration block for a multi-national Operator in India in 2000. Until Reliance (then ONGC) broke the record, JMK held the record of heading India's deep water well in 1,200 m of water depth. He was the Drilling Manager for many of Cairn's successful discoveries including the major success in Rajasthan. By 2003, he was heading the Drilling Operations for all the Cairn blocks in India but decided to move for further growth on a career as an independent free lance consultant the decision towards that was enhanced by the excellent stock options gained in Cairn. By then, he was holding a name for introducing significant amount of new technologies for the first time to Indian oil and gas industry.

Intead of becoming safe and securing a protected life by his experience and financial gains from Cairn and its stock options, JMK, at that time, with his 18 years of versatile experience, decided to become the FIRST Indian free lance consultant in the Oil and Gas drilling industry. However, for the first 4 months there was no work as none of the oil and gas companies in India believed that an Indian can be a free lance consultant as until that only Western Expats (some Eastern too) were providing such consultancy in India. "Believe you can and you are halfway there" is a quote by Theodore Roosevelt. JMK's belief in his abilities and earnestness to become a renowned drilling consultant in the oil and gas industry got him an opening as a consultant in a company called Geo-Enpro, a Indo-French JV Company, although only 30% of an Expat's day rate was offered to him as a trial basis for 3 months. However, JMK took up the challenge and established his foot print as a potential free lance drilling consultant which paved the way and developed confidence for several Indians in the next 2-3 years to take up free lancing positions and today there are hundreds of Indian free lance consultants on day rate all over the world.

The search for Oil and gas is done by geologists and geophysicists for hydrocarbon deposits beneath the earths surface either onshore or offshore through various surveys, predominatly seismic surveys. The study of Oil and gas exploration is called petroleum geology. Oil is a naturally occuring chemical comprising of carbon and hydrogen and are called hydrocarbons. Oil was formed millions of years ago (from 5 million to almost 400 million) deep below the ground when organic matter including animals, plants and living organisms were buried due to natural phenomena. The buried organic matter was covered by sediments of earth in millions of years (sediments brought by the rivers for example) and at the right depth deep below the ground (some times as deep as 5-7 kms), high temperature and pressure in a REDUCED environment (in the absence of Oxygen), they were converted in to hydrocarbons in the "Source Rocks". However, the oil did not stay in the source rocks. They migrated upwards (as the density is lighter than water) to long distances until they were trapped by what is called "Cap Rock" that are impermeable in nature such that oil or gas cannot escape beyond and there the hydrocaron reservoir is formed. Hence interestingly the oil found in say saudi Arabia may not have been formed in Saudi at all - they migrated from a deep zone far away. The depth of the reservoirs varies from a few hundred metres to 10 kms and majority of the reservoir is made of oil, gas and water, gas on top followed by oil which floats on water. After the geologists determine the possibility of Oil through the process of seismic survey, processing, interpretation and analysis of data, the process of drilling to confirm the presence of oil begins. The drilling process consists of 5 stages: (a) Engineering, Planning and Preparation, (b) Rig up and Commissioning, (C) Drilling and Testing, (D) Completion and (E) Close Out. The most critical part is the engineering and design as the sediments below the earth are studied thoroughly (rock formation beneath the earth's surface which could be silt, sand, clay, limestone, shale, conglomerate, quartz, pyrites, granite etc) at different dip angles, compaction, pressure and temperature, to determine the well path and the plans to drill the well safely. Once the well is completed, oil and gas flow through a completion tubing (commonly from 2.7/8" to 5.1/2" size) from the reservoir to surface. At the surface, a X-Mas tree (looks like a Christmas tree with several branches) is installed to manage/regulate the production in a controlled manner. The multi-phase flow of gas–oil–water from the well is processed/separated in Separators at surface and then oil is pumped/transported to land based storage units or offshore based FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) and gas to power plant or fertiliser plant or CNG etc. FPSO's store the crude and then offloads to a tanker which would reach refining plants for refining and breaking into various non renewable fuel like LPG, Naptha, Gasoline (Petrol), Kerosene, Diesel, Lubricating Oil etc.

JMK's expertise is in the drilling process - to drill the well to the reservoir, test it for productivity and then complete it for producing it to surface. His job is completed when the X-Mas tree is installed when the production team takes over for further processes. Drilling, as it is done below ground to depths varying from 1 km to 6 kms (or even more) involves high risks, uncertainties and multiple complexities that cannot be comprehended by any other industry that is observed and managed at surface. The technology is equal to or sometimes exceeds the space technology of NASA and drilling technology is one of the most advanced and complex in nature. JMK's expertise is to drill, test and complete the wells with minimum risks, maximised value and optimsied cost. JMK today is one of the most renouned, highly respected and popular Drilling Project Management Consultant in India and overseas.

After working for 3 years as free lance consultant, in 2006, JMK founded "AJAPA Integrated Project Management Consultants Pvt Ltd" with 4 of his friends in Chennai. It was the FIRST Indian full pledged true integrated project management company which competed against the only dominant Western Multi-Nationals. Ajapa established its foot print very strongly within 12 months of its formation by its strict and disciplined approach to a 3 R Principle – right people, right strategy and right execution to deliver the projects successfully. When I asked him the meaning of AJAPA, JMK said that it is a Sanskrit word and means an effortless/spontaneous form of meditation which awakens the prana to increase the energy and purity of the mind such that the whole organism functions at a healthier and efficient level.

AJAPA grew at a fast pace and within 3 years, had developed a Clientale consisting of Indian and Multi-National Operators both in India and Overseas including PSU's like Oil India Limited, GAIL, HPCL. Most of the small and independent Operators in India became the client of Ajapa including multi-nationals like Oilex (Australia), ENI (Italy) and Geo-Petrol (French). Ajapa's flagship project was done in Nigeria for a company called Sterling where Ajapa drilled 12 wells successfully including 4 horizontal wells amidst complex and complicated environment, militant activities, most difficult terrain in the middle of an African forest in record time. Ajapa operates/operated in several areas with an expertise in operating in most difficult and remote terrains including places like Tripura and Assam (in India), Nigeria, Egypt, Georgia, Kenya, Iraq etc apart from Oman and UAE and several other parts of India.

Later Ajapa made a JV with two partners one from Australia and one from Cyprus to expand the business model and to cover the globe geographically with an understanding that each JV partner would focus on specific countries of the world synergising the expertise of each as required. Due to this, Ajapa's support had expanded beyond limited regions to Myanmar, Russia, Kazakshtan, Mexico, USA etc.

Ajapa does not have huge amount of manpower but manages the projects through a close network of highly experienced experts and has only a few support staff. Ajapa's model is based on an integrated net-work and every consultant of Ajapa works from where ever he is as long as the project is delivered. So one can see Ajapa's consultants working from home, beach, park, even in shopping malls or cinema halls except when they have to be in a Client's base or the field to deliver the project. The consultants are managed through a system of networking from Chennai and Hyderabad offices and JMK's wife N.K. Prabhavathy handles the technical co-ordination (she is a Chemical Engineer from 1988 Annamalai Batch – she completed her Phd in Chemical Engineering from IIT Madras in 1993) - however she resigned in 2012 as she took over the complete management of www.petrosity.com which is 100% JMK's family project (guided by him, managed by his wife and supported by his two sons – btoh are Petroleum Engineering Students).

JMK happily says that he works for about 14 to 16 hours at work and spends 20 to 25 days in travel. AJAPA has Knowledge capital instead of Asset/Money Capital. His company has 14 professionals working full time plus another 16-20 as call out consultants - managing between 6-10 projects at a time (currently 4 projects in India - in Rajamundry, Gujarat and Assam and 2 abroad – Georgia and Kenya). Each of the Consultants are highly paid (Probably 4th highest in the ranking of the world industries – Number 1 is the Strategists and CEO of huge banking systems and Hedge funds, Number 2 is the System Architects of IT/Anti-Hackers, 3rd is the Multi-Media (like Avatar movie type or I-Phone 5 designers etc) and 4th is the oil and gas drilling experts. Hence managing such a high quality experts and sustaining the credibility of the Company against high risk, high uncertainty, high complex nature of the work and standing against the dominant Western Expats is the real value measure for Ajapa.

JMK's ideology of Growth is just astonishing. Such an amount of confidence, energy levels and after performing so much and accomplishing extensively he is absolutely down to earth. He said that humility is not a limitation for Growth, on the contrary humility is a stepping stone for Growth !! He also mentioned that we have to keep moving so that we don't rust !! He observes that there are a lot of people who think that it is taboo to keep growing all the time without contentment. He is of the view that one is to grow all the time without greed and jealousy. Continuous Growth without compromising on Integrity is the most humblest of action. He added that humbleness and humility are prerequisite to Growth.

To demonstrate that, apart from his core expertise, being a very knowledgeable person in many fields, he reads extensively and not only that he has written a few books too: Well control for beginners (technical), Women - Life and emotions, Publisher of Tech Diary 2010 - A one of its kind in the world of Oil and Gas industry which has become a kind of reference guide to students of Petroleum Engineering as well industry people. He has designed few high technology and complex drilling tools and patented few models (waiting on the patent). He holds credit of few technical papers and reports. He is the Brand Ambassador of few new innovations and works closely with Scientists and Technologists from Canada, Russia, Lebanon and UK. He conducts advanced well engineering and drilling practices training courses for Corporate Sectors and serves as an Advisor for few CEO's of oil and gas companies and to the Management Committee of few Petroleum Engineering Institutes. He has scripted/directed/acted in two 1 min advertisements (Nokia and Voltaren) and currently scripting two short movies in Tamil (production expected in December 2013) - one of them is titled "Arumbakkam Ayavum and America Obamavum".

His profile can be seen at www.jmuthukumar.com.

His future idea is to develop and release the World's advanced "Well Integrity-Well Profiling-Well Reliability model" for mitigating high risks, make the www.petrosity.com as the most followed oil and gas web portal and finally to establish a world class Training Institute and Produce/Direct a trend changing/exeptional Tamil Movie before he retires/dies and he feels that the time is short and hence there is no time to rest. In between he balances his family life such that he spends considerable time on several aspects of life including publications of books on Lord Shiva, Devaram and Thiruvasagam.

Very happy to have met a person who stands by Values and constantly striving for Growth, AUETAA is very proud to have an other alumni J.Muthukumar, Director and Chief Management Consultant for AJAPA Integrated Project Management Consultants Pvt Ltd. At the end of the interview i thanked JMK for his time who has promised to give a lecture about OIL exploration in our AUETAA House shortly.


Every one wants to live on top of a mountain but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it - Andy Rooney