Tata Group rose above shareholding and family to choose N Chandrasekaran | business-news | Hindustan Times
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Tata Group rose above shareholding and family to choose N Chandrasekaran

The Tata group rose above caste, family and shareholding to chose N. Chandrasekaran as its first non-Parsi chariman, after the infamous ouster of Cyrus Mistry, followed by one of the biggest boardroom battles of corporate India.

business Updated: Jan 13, 2017 18:02 IST
Sunny Sen
TCS CEO N Chandradsekaran was named Tata Sons chairman.
TCS CEO N Chandradsekaran was named Tata Sons chairman. (Reuters Photo)

Initially, after Cyrus Mistry’s infamous ouster on October 24, the board was busy preparing responses to his allegations.

Ratan Tata had taken over as the interim chairman, but he was clear that he would find Mistry’s successor within 120 days. Meanwhile, he would stabilize the group, and steer it through the crisis.

Mistry, whose family-owned business Shapoorji Pallonji holds 18.4% in Tata Sons, the holding company that runs the group, had decided to fight back. Both parties lashed out at each other. While this was going on, the Tata Sons board realised that the new successor had to be christened soon, to end the uncertainty. Time was running out.

Choosing Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO and managing director of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as the chairman of Tata group wasn’t an easy job. He was not the only one in the race – Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, Unilever’s Harsh Manwani and Sir George Buckley of Smiths Group were in the run.

A selection committee of five people were formed – Ratan Tata, Amit Chandra, managing director of Bain Capital; Venu Srinivasan, chairman of the TVS group; Ronen Sen, ex-diplomat; and Sushanta Kumar Bhattacharyya, founder of the Warwick Manufacturing Group.

The Top 5
 1  Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Trusts
 2  Amit Chandra, Managing director of Bain Capital
 3  Venu Srinivasan, chairman of the TVS group
 4  Ronen Sen, ex-diplomat
 5  Sushanta Kumar Bhattacharyya, founder of the Warwick Manufacturing Group
The Contenders
N Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD of TCS
Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover
Harsh Manwani, non-executive chairman of HUL
Sir George Buckley, chairman Smiths Group
Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo

He knows the group’s value, ethics and culture -- one reason why Mistry’s ideologies weren’t well accepted and resulted in his ouster.

Chandra, as he is fondly called, is unlike any other former Tata group chairmen. He is not a Parsi (all former chairmen were Parsis), he is not from the family, and he not a big shareholder in Tata Sons. In fact, he was inducted into the Tata Sons board a day after Mistry’s ouster, along with Speth.

Born in Mohanur village in Tamil Nadu, studying in a Tamil medium school, none of his friends would have thought that one day he would head India’s most formidable conglomerate. He learnt as he grew.

But, what could have gone against him is that he had never handled Tata group’s brick and mortar businesses such as steel and automobiles.

 Chandrasekaran’s life at Tata Group
  • 1987: Chandrasekaran joined Tata Group as an intern with TCS.
  • Before becoming CEO, he was credited for TCS restructuring.
  • 2009: he became TCS CEO as one of the youngest CEOs in Tata group.
  • During his tenure, TCS’ revenue tripled to $17 billion.
  • October 2015: he was inducted to the board of Tata Sons.
  • January 12: he was names the chairman of Tata group.
 Chandrasekaran’s life beyond work
  • Insiders say that he knows most of his employees by name.
  • Often he walks up to them and inquires about their well being.
  • He is a fitness lover – runs long marathons.
  • He is an animal lover. His dog, Ray, passed away in 2014.
  • When he is free, Chandra does photography.

The selection committee was aware of this. While interviewing Chandra for the position they asked him, how he would handle manufacturing, with no experience, a financial daily reported.

Chandra’s response was candid. He did not make big promises. He said he will not be able to do that without a team to guide him. He already has Ratan Tata by his side.

Since morning, sources said, Chandra was busy with TCS’ results. He did his job at TCS till the last minute. Before joining the meeting with the committee at 4 pm, he addressed the media at TCS’ quarterly results – his last one as its CEO.

During his tenure, since he started heading TCS in 2009, the software services firm’s revenue nearly tripled to $17 billion, and that he did at industry-leading margins of over 25%. Its rivals – Infosys and Wipro – struggled through this time.

Read| N Chandrasekaran: Key facts about the new Tata Sons chairman