Being prepared to take risks and try new ideas are two key factors driving the management of Great Eastern Energy Corporation Ltd (GEECL), India’s first and most successful operator in the coal-bed methane (CBM) industry. The first privately owned Indian company to be listed on the London Stock Exchange (in 2005), GEECL is part of the YK Modi Group, a widely diversified business conglomerate which began operations in 1933.

Heading GEECL for the last twenty years, in various positions, is Prashant Modi. In September last year, he replaced his father in the role of managing director & CEO of the company, which employs about 1,000 people.

“I studied for my degree in management, with a major in finance, at Boston University, and then did practical training for one year overseas with two organisations. One was Qualcomm in San Diego and the other was the ANZ Bank in London. I joined my father’s business in 1996, just as we were drilling for the first time,” Prashant says.

“My educational background concentrated on finance, but along the way I mastered the technical stuff. We started with maybe US$50,000–100,000 investment in drilling test wells and now it’s reached more than US$300 million. We are the first CBM producer in Asia, and have made some money, but there’s still a lot of growth to be achieved, and that will surely come. CBM production comes slowly, unlike in conventional gas.”

Prashant saw the writing on the wall early — India would need to reduce its reliance on imported fuels if the economy was to grow well. In recent years, the government awarded thirty-three CBM blocks in four rounds of auctions, with GEECL one of the first involved — and still operating. Of the thirty-three, sixteen have already either been relinquished, or been offered for relinquishment, due to poor results. GEECL has begun production from Raniganj (South) block in West Bengal and is producing around 0.44 million standard cubic metres per day, while state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has entered the development phase in four blocks, including Raniganj (North).