A year on, the 54-year-old has addressed many of the pain points in the $100 billion Tata Group.
Running is not easy. It’s as physical as it is psychological and often, the sport is a lonely one. But that didn’t deter Natarajan Chandrasekaran, who took up the sport at 44. The day after consulting his doctor on ‘some health concerns’ and encouraged by his wife, Chandrasekaran bought a new pair of shoes and hit the ground running. Within eight months, he had run his first marathon.
Chandrasekaran has showed a similar penchant to tackle issues head on after taking over as the Chairman of Tata Sons on February 1, 2017. Just four months earlier, his predecessor Cyrus Mistry was removed from the post in unprecedented circumstances. Now apart from calming the frayed nerves of his colleagues at the $100 billion conglomerate, Chandra –as the former CEO and Managing Director of TCS is called – had some other pressing issues to address.
Tata Steel, the biggest company in the Group by revenues, was facing serious headwinds in its European operations. There were legacy issues at Tata Teleservices and the passenger vehicles segment of Tata Motors could do with some more push.
A year on, the 54-year-old has addressed many of these pain points. If there were apprehensions initially about a non-Parsi heading the Group for the first time, Chandra has allayed those fears.
While the European business of Tata Steel is being merged with Germany’s Thyssenkrupp, Chandra also over saw the $1.2 billion settlement with Docomo regarding latter’s partnership with Tata Teleservices. Furthermore, Tata Teleservices merged its consumer mobile business with Bharti Airtel.
Tata Motors has surprised everyone in the auto industry with its performance. For the first time in six years, a Tata car has entered the top 10 best selling list in India.
“Chandra has not disappointed us. When he joined Tata Sons we were expecting him to do something big as he had joined during challenging times. After he came, slew of big deals were done one of which was Tata Sons-Bharti,” said a senior fund manager from a private bank-sponsored fund house.
The equity market has applauded the steps taken by the group companies under the leadership of Chandra’s.
Stock price of most of the Tata companies have outperformed the broader market.
The combined market capitalisation of 26 listed Tata companies is up 16.76% percent since his appointment on February 21, 2017, to Rs 9,70,892 now against a 17.59% percent appreciation in the benchmark BSE Sensex during the period.
If one excludes TCS and Tata Motors , the group market capitalisation is up 45.83% percent.
Focus on talent
Much of Chandrasekaran’s focus in the past year has been on Tata Group’s human resource pool. This also meant that some chiefs also exited from the Bombay House. These included Rakesh Sarna, MD of Indian Hotels, Praveen Kadle, CEO, Tata Capital and Brotin Banerjee, Managing Director of Tata Housing.
Some realignments were done internally. Girish Wagh was elevated to replace Ravindra Pisharody to head Tata Motors' commercial vehicles business and TV Narendran became the global CEO for Tata Steel and reported directly to Chandra.
And when needed, Chandra looked out. Saurabh Agarwal was roped in from the Aditya Birla Group as Group CFO. Though the recruitment did create ripples in some sections of the conglomerate, Chandra managed to keep peace.
Banmali Agrawala, a GE veteran, came in to head realty and infra clusters; Aarthi Subramanian, an executive director at TCS, joined Chandra as Groupu’s chief digital officer, and Roopa Purushothaman, former global economist at Goldman Sachs, became the Tata Group’s chief economists.
A job well begun may be half done. But Chandra know much of the positive developments in Group companies in the past one year, are still work in progress. And there are big decisions to be made, including the participation in the Air India divestment.
There are also the acquisitions that Tata Steel is pursuing domestically. The company’s bids for Bhushan Steel and Bhushan Power & Steel have already drawn comparisons with the Corus acquisition, which was driven by Ratan Tata. But analysts say the aggression, this time around, may be more measured.
One doesn’t know if Chandra still manages to run 50km a week like he used to before. But he ran the London Marathon just about a month after taking over at Tata Sons.
Now he has run all the World Marathon majors. At TCS too, Chandra had achieved all in his 30-year stint. He would want to continue on that track at Tata Sons too.
(With inputs from Himadri Buch and Ritesh Presswala)