Seema Gupta: Director, Operations, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited

Director, Operations, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited

Considered a pioneer in the power transmission industry, Seema Gupta is among the first few women electrical engineers in the country to work for the development of power transmission project. Gupta recently took over as Director, Operations, at POWERGRID and is responsible for strategic decision-making on operations and maintenance of POWERGRID’s transmission network, which is key to achieving the government’s mission of One Nation, One Grid, One Price. She is also responsible for the development of the National Transmission Asset Management Centre, a project for making all substations remotely operated with the development of specialised expertise groups on critical analysis and maintenance of equipment.

A graduate from the Delhi College of Engineering, Gupta has 34 years’ experience, working for marquee organisations like NTPC, where she started her career, and POWERGRID. She got inspired to work in the power sector while she was doing an internship with BHEL in Haridwar during the 1980s, a time when access to power was a distant reality. “What better way to contribute to nation-building than through the development of the power sector,” she says.

During her career, Gupta has served in several roles such as head, international business; chief operating officer (CTU); regional head of Northern Region-1 and executive director of Corporate Monitoring Group, Commercial and Corporate Planning departments at POWERGRID. She has carried out all her assignments with full dedication and keeps them close to her heart. “All my projects and roles have helped to mould me into the person I am today and hence, all are quite memorable. To pick out one would be unfair to the others,” she comments.

Gupta notes that several recent initiatives such as the Saubhagya scheme and the 175 GW renewable energy target will have a huge impact on the transmission segment. “It puts a big responsibility on us to ensure reliability and reduce T&D losses. Given the ambitious plan of integrating 175 GW of renewable energy within grid by 2022, we have to be ready for stabilising the grid with back-up sources to account for variations in wind and solar generation. We have to also explore the development of non-conventional generation points with the development of the hydro potential in the North-eastern region and integrating the nuclear plants which have been planned in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu,” she says. POWERGRID is preparing for these challenges by inducting technologies like 1,200 kV UHVAC and ±800 kV HVDC links, superconducting magnetic energy storage systems and high temperature superconducting cables.

Gupta says she has earned a reputation as a turnaround leader and a “go-to” person. As a woman leader with a belief in never quitting, she is a source of encouragement for other women colleagues. “Women should contribute on equal terms with their male counterparts to be treated on equal terms,” she says. Gupta has, in fact, received the Outstanding Women Manager Award from former president Pranab Mukherjee. “It feels nice when you get appreciated for your work by those you revere,” she adds.

Gupta was raised in a family of four sisters and credits her parents for encouraging her to break stereotypes. She has tried to ingrain the same in her daughters, both professionals. “If they want something, they need to get it as no one is going to serve anything on a platter. We often talk about female independence, but only an independent mind can achieve it,” she says. Her husband too has always encouraged her.“At times, I have been doubtful of taking an assignment due to some prior family commitments. But he has always encouraged me to take it on and pursue my dreams,” she says.

Working in roles that could be considered as “always on”, Gupta tries to maximise the little spare time she has to be with her family. “I leave my director hat at the door of my house and enter as a family member,” she says. She likes to unwind by reading, as books help her explore the realms of art and culture. Of late, she has been trying her hand at golf.