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For Welspun’s Rajesh Chokhani, Pipe Dreams Continue Without Keystone

3 min read
Rajesh Chokhani has spent his entire career of 28-plus years in business development, joint ventures, operations and greenfield projects at Welspun Tubular, where he is chief operating officer and a member of the board. More than a decade ago, he selected the Little Rock Port as the best location for the company’s new pipe manufacturing facility in the United States. The facility opened in 2009.
Chokhani also serves on the boards of the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, Arvest Bank, Little Rock Regional Chamber, CARTI and Harmony Health Clinic. He represents the Houston Consulate General of India in Little Rock through his work in the community of Indian origin.
Chokhani earned his MBA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Six months later, are your worst fears about the cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline coming to pass?

Not really. The cancellation of the KXL project has created a huge gap in the pipe manufacturing industry. There are more than a million tons of pipes sitting on the ground, and it may discourage new pipe manufacturing.

What is next for Welspun?

We have no choice but to hold tight until the market rebounds. The industry is experiencing some tough times. But we are very confident that these tough times will not last for very long.

Who are Welspun’s biggest clients?

Almost all the oil and gas majors are our clients.

What are the biggest business challenges for Welspun?

Our biggest challenges are to surpass the gap created due to the cancellation of the KXL project, domestic steel pricing and workforce availability when business rebounds. Our business has been tremendously affected by the cancellation of projects, including KXL.

What lessons have you taken away from the pandemic?

We have been very lucky. We survived the pandemic by containing the spread of the virus and continuing to produce pipe for the KXL project. We cannot thank TC Energy enough for believing in and entrusting us with the responsibility. This provided work that helped us sustain jobs for Arkansas.

Is demonstrating business leadership in India different than in Little Rock and, if so, in what ways?

Not really. Welspun, across the globe, believes in empowerment, employee engagement, inclusive growth and customer-centricity, both external and internal. We are all tied into “One Welspun.”

What attracted you to this line of work?

Building the future and community service are my passion. Manufacturing pipe for the oil and gas industry helps me achieve these goals. Historically, the U.S. had been a net importer of oil. I have seen a 180-degree change in that during the years we have been manufacturing pipe in the U.S. Building pipelines has reduced our dependency on imports of oil. The U.S. has the capability to impact GDP growth, leveraging its reserves by exporting natural gas as there is a huge imbalance that exists across the globe.

Welspun helps me satisfy my passion for community service and allows me to contribute to economic development in this region. I appreciate my team allowing me to do what I do. It affords me the opportunity to positively impact the lives of people in health care and education, especially the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programs.

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