The oil and gas industry moves in cycles, with companies required to ride the good times and prepare for the bad. The sector earned record profits in 2022 but Megat Zariman, President of Velesto Energy, is already preparing for the cliff that will inevitably come.
A little over a year into his role, he says he’s confident his “new focus” on people and performance will be Velesto’s best insurance policy. “My strategy is to make sure we can elevate to the next level to exceed clients’ expectations. It’s no longer enough just to meet them,” Zariman tells The CEO Magazine.
“When it gets very competitive and very tight, we want to be the best in what we deliver to our clients.”
Established in 2002 as UMW Oil and Gas Corporation, following its demerger from UMW Holdings Berhad in 2017, the company became known as Velesto Energy Berhad in 2018. Today, Velesto is Malaysia’s largest owner and operator of jack-up rigs. Its services include repairs and inspections of oil fields and technical training programs focusing on drilling.
Zariman says Velesto has a “strong teamwork culture” and he wants to capitalize on that, upskilling his workforce so they are empowered to take on additional responsibility.
“Leadership is about trust and empowerment,” he says. “It’s about allowing people to flourish and develop themselves, and giving them an opportunity to grow. It’s about giving them accountability and ownership.”
I see benefits in having a workplace where people are free to express their minds. There’s value in diversity.
Empowering the workforce
Leadership, he says, is also about giving your staff the freedom to express their ideas and make mistakes. “I see benefits in having a workplace where people are free to express their minds, bring up ideas and have disagreements. There’s value in diversity,” he says. “It’s also about learning from mistakes and not punishing the team or people for them. In most cases, you actually learn from them.”
Zariman believes the role of leaders is to nurture and encourage the staff, which means being present. In his tenure as president, he’s already traveled to more than 10 sites, including rigs.
“The first time I went there, people were very reserved and not willing to speak up. But as I visit more, the people become more open. It’s fantastic to be engaging with people and for them to see that they can speak up freely,” he says. “In my last trip, for example, they suggested a list of things that we should try to do to improve the workforce and the company.”
Zariman never planned to go into oil and gas; he studied computer engineering at university. But a job offer from Exxon Malaysia changed the entire direction of his career. Three decades later, he’s notched up a variety of roles in areas from technical, management and services to logistics, mergers and acquisitions as well as sales and marketing.
He’s also worked for oilfield services giants Schlumberger and Bumi Amada, and in locations as diverse as the United States, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
He feels his breadth of experience has given him the know-how to steer Velesto. “I’ve learned to be versatile and to quickly gain the knowledge and skills required to take on something new. So when the opportunity for Velesto came up, I was confident that I was able to do the job. I feel this is the right time for me to take the company to the next level.”
Giving back and becoming more sustainable is part of that. Velesto actively participates in efforts to restore coral reefs on Malaysia’s Perhentian Island. “We are the first oil and gas company that participates in marine conservation through coral nursery establishment at the island,” Zariman says.
Velesto is also committed to playing a role in the betterment of society across several key pillars: education, community safety and community upliftment.
It’s no longer enough just to meet expectations.
The company is also trying to minimize the environmental footprint of its rigs and other facilities. It has minimized the usage of plastic bottles and installed LED lights and solar panels where possible. It is also looking to install battery storage systems on the rigs and is considering technology that may help to reduce emissions.
Amid the industry’s peaks and troughs, Zariman says Velesto is “riding the upcurve right now, which is fantastic”. All its rigs are working seamlessly and there are strong prospects for the years ahead.
Recent wins include a contract with Hess Exploration & Production Malaysia B.V. signed in November 2022 for the provision of integrated rig, drilling and completion (i-RDC) services for 14 wells. In February 2023, it signed a deal with Roc Oil to jack up one of its rigs to drill three wells. But Zariman says he knows “the cliff will come” and he wants Velesto to be ready.
“Right now we’re trying to showcase to our clients that we are the best drilling contractor in the region, if not in the world,” he says.