The Indian Railways may finally loosen its grip and delegate work to the heads of its public sector units, such as Container Corporation (Concor), Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation, Indian Railway Finance Corporation, Railtel, RITES, Ircon, and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation.

The Department of Public Enterprises has invited applications from non-railway service employees for the post of Chairman and Managing Director.

The post, at present, is held by the Railway Board members.

This move will pave the way for more financial and administrative freedom for these PSUs as the post of their Chairman is at present held by the Railway Board members.

“There was a Railway Ministry decision to designate all MDs as CMDs. The DPE has already conducted the interviews of the MDs to find their suitability for the re-designation,” said the Managing Director of one of the railway PSUs.

This will also pave the way for the Rs 4,000-crore Concor to get Navaratna status soon, a move that will help the listed company take faster decisions, without waiting for approvals.

According to Mr Vinoo Mathur, former-Member Traffic, Railway Board, “Navaratna status will be good for Concor, particularly when it plans to take up overseas projects.”

At present, the Chairman’s post vests with Member (Traffic), Railway Board, something that works to the benefit of Concor, given that it is in the rail transportation business. But the new status will be good for Concor, as it can go ahead with plans to emerge as an integrated logistics player.

Earlier, the Navaratna status eluded Concor despite its eligibility because the Railways hesitated from giving away the post of Chairman. Concor had even come out with a bonus issue in 2008 to qualify as a Navaratna, coinciding with Shipping Corporation of India getting Navaratna status.

Concor plans to invest in port infrastructure, a move that will help it in forward and backward integration at a time when it is competing with companies such as APL, DPW, and Hind Terminals — all of which are backed by shipping lines or large port terminal companies.

Currently, Concor has a stake in a port terminal in Mumbai with APM Terminals.

In the domestic market, though, Concor benefits from being an incumbent player in the sector and enjoys two-third market share in wagon fleet. It has a network of over 60 terminals.

mamuni@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 13, 2012)
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