Oil India Limited’s Big Leap into Digital Transformation

The story of Oil India Limited (OIL) traces and symbolises the development and growth of the Indian petroleum industry and its foray into digital transformation has been nothing short of exemplary

The recent few years have witnessed government institutions take giant strides in terms of adopting a digital-first strategy and imbibing digital transformation. And amongst the names that have set out and become great examples of such progressive organisations is Oil India Limited.

Oil India Limited is a premier Indian national oil company engaged in the business of exploration, development and production of crude oil and natural gas, transportation of crude oil and production of LPG with its operational headquarters in Duliajan, Assam, India. The story of Oil India Limited (OIL) traces and symbolises the development and growth of the Indian petroleum industry. From the discovery of crude oil in the far east of India at Digboi, Assam in 1889 to its present status as a fully integrated upstream petroleum company, OIL has come far, crossing many milestones.

Sharing his views on their digital transformation strategy, DJ Singh, DGM-IT, Oil India Limited, shares, “This journey of being digital has been with Oil India for more than three years now. Our focus has been to bring technology closer to our end users. And the other focus was on how much more digital oil we could derive from our business. And COVID-19 too became an opportunity for us. It had a positive impact on accelerating our digital transformation journey. There were multiple things which we had initially thought of, which we were testing out or trying out, that we are finally implementing now. In the Oil and Gas industry, we don’t have a work-from-home kind of culture. So, COVID-19 sort of pushed everyone to go for the work-from-home scenario and work at 50% strength. It allowed us to bring that cultural change and people got so used to using these tools. Not only PSUs but across the globe, many organisations have accelerated their digital transformation journeys in these times.”

Going digital all the way

Setting out on a digital transformation journey requires concrete business objectives and a well-thought-out strategy. According to Singh, the primary motive for Oil India is to secure energy for India, which India imports heavily. The objective was what they could do to reduce that and how much oil could they find across the globe for India. So, their digital initiatives could not have been disconnected with that vision. “Our focus has been on what we can do to reduce our losses in the operations and what we can do to produce more as compared to what we do right now. With less and less oil under the ground, it is tough to produce more at a less cost. So, we found that digitisation could help us find out how we could produce more oil. We listed down multiple initiatives and accordingly started adopting new technologies to see how we could produce more oil and reduce the cost of production, etc.,” shares Singh.

At Oil India, they had a great concern regarding spillages happening in their transportation system. The surveillance teams had to cross forests and other challenging terrains which were not very practical to expect from human beings as it is not possible to be always alert and observant and take action as early as possible. So, these activities usually used to be reactive in nature. Even the reporting of a loss would have a time gap. So, this is when they thought of using drones. “We needed a kind of surveillance which would give some information ahead of time and would keep us on our toes so that we have a much better reaction time and technology helped us in achieving that.”

As per Oil India’s aim to become more digitised, another key solution that they adopted was an initiative to connect the furthermost worker to their core. “Many times, a person is remotely working, and he has much information on the remote sites. So, how can we enable that worker so that whatever he sees and whatever information he has, can be quickly reported to the backend as early as possible and in the truest form possible? This is what we are able to address,” adds Singh.

Partnering for progress

Oil India has been a vSphere customer for almost a decade, and this partnership has helped them in achieving efficiency and managing scale along with time and cost optimisation. Sharing more details on this successful association, Singh says, “The initial footprint of VMware has always been in the virtualisation world, and it has a stronghold there. So, we have been able to virtualise most of our requirements in our primary data centre. We have seen many benefits actually, manageability being the first one. Our operating costs are higher vis-à-vis multiple other companies.

So, once we virtualised the environment, our operating costs came down. The other aspect is how we scale. Since the cycle of procurement is different from other private organisations and PSUs, this virtualisation also helps us in scaling or expanding at a faster rate.”

As an organisation, Oil India had a refresh of their infra and wanted to build a private cloud, so that they could properly manage, plan growth, and stop buying ad-hoc infrastructure. And that is why Oil India partnered with VMware with its VMware Cloud Foundation solutions. VCF has helped them in achieving their vision of managing all the infrastructure from a single screen and having the capability to grow as and when required in the future, asserts Singh. “With a private cloud, we can scale both vertically as well as horizontally. There has been an increase in our efficiency and productivity. Our downtimes would be reduced, and our maintenance costs would come down drastically. To sum it up, the imagination goes beyond what we can do. My admin guys will have more peaceful nights. They no longer must worry at night that somebody from Houston team has started consuming more resources, and the application has hung. They don’t have to think about it. These things have become much simpler, so in the future, we see that we can connect this in a hybrid cloud scenario,” he adds.

Looking ahead to a digital future

Oil India has some bullish plans when it comes to adopting exponential technologies. Talking about Oil India’s next technology adoption plans, Singh further shares, “Whatever we are taking as digital is focused more on the newer technologies and how they can help us make more oil or reduce our costs. Finally, all these initiatives have to land either on the SAP ERP or some database at the backend, which churns out more meaningful information that the top management can see and take better decisions. So here, we are discussing something like SAP ERP with VMware, where it is running the show that we have and if they happen to be on the same platforms, which is coming from VMWare, it eases the transition. And VMware’s roadmap matches with what we are thinking. Running the digital infrastructure is also very simple on VMware. So yes, with VMware as a strategic partner, our digital initiatives will accelerate and will have a firm foundation for us to take a bigger leap in the future.”