"I have told my PSUs, especially those that produce steel, that there is a new environment where PSU is not a holy cow. You should perform and compete with your private players," the minister said in an interview to PTI.
The minister cautioned that the PSUs cannot afford to sit on their laurels in the changing scenario in the world.
"So, either perform or perish," Singh said, in a blunt message.
The PSUs should diversify their activities and go for high-end steel production, Singh suggested.
"Diversify your activities, go for high-end steel production and also...
diversify into those activities where you can make best use of your land which is available to you. There is about one lakh acres of land with steel plants of our PSUs," Singh said.
The minister had earlier talked about SAIL barely achieving blast furnace productivity at 1.7 tonnes per cubic metre per day (tpcm/d) in contrast to over 2.5 tpcm/d by its private counterparts and global standard of over 3 tpcm/d.
The minister had earlier rapped SAIL for slow progress in modernisation as well as capacity ramp-up as deadlines were missed.
The government has already set up a committee to suggest measures to fast-track modernisation of steel public sector firms SAIL and RINL. The panel is chaired by the steel secretary and has CMDs of SAIL and RINL as its members.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a leading global management consultancy, is also part of the panel, besides outside experts. Till February, Rs 64,986 crore have been spent by SAIL towards modernisation and expansion, mines and related schemes.
In Feb this year, Singh had asked PSUs, including SAIL, to "perform or perish" saying complacency cannot be tolerated at a time when private players are excelling on various parameters.
Chairing a meeting of chiefs of top steel PSUs, the minister pulled up PSUs like SAIL and RINL for not only lagging behind on international benchmarks, but were behind their private counterparts and complacent in ramping up capacities.
Also indicting SAIL for slow progress in modernisation as well as ramping up of capacity, the minister said deadlines were missed one after another which cannot be tolerated anymore, according to the ministry sources.