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Marathon man is the new iron man of corporate India
N Chandrasekaran (or just Chandra in corporate India) is the new chairman of the Tata group. His anointment brings to a closure the turmoil caused by the abrupt removal of Cyrus Mistry, which tarnished the image of the global conglomerate.

Honchos of Jaguar Land Rover, Unilever, Smiths Group and PepsiCo were in the race. In the interview, a panelist reportedly asked Chandra, “how would you handle manufacturing?” Remember, manufacturing is the principal business of the Tatas and Chandra has no experience in it.  The man who would be Tata Chairman reportedly replied that he would not be able to do so without a team to guide him.  The practical approach lets him have the cake and eat it too!

The Chandra story is that of a marathon runner who joined TCS in 1987 and worked his way up the ladder.  Right from his first day, he was a star performer. He bagged the industry’s first $100 million deal from GE in 2002 and took charge as the chief executive and managing director in 2009.  TCS revenue nearly tripled to $17 billion and its margins of over 25 per cent led the industry and made it the cash cow of the group. 

 

Shining siblings...

He comes from a family that oozes success and whose story could as well be a blockbuster movie. The youngest of a family of three brothers and three sisters, Chandra, grew up in a small town 415 km from Chennai. He and his brothers, N Srinivasan and N Ganapathy Subramaniam daily walked 3km to their Tamil medium school.

Chandra is not the only successful person.  Srinivasan qualified as a CA and had risen to be Director of Finance in Murugappa group. N Ganapathy Subramaniam is now the COO and director in TCS board. And Chandra’s father-in-law is a Padma Bhushan.

His colleagues describe him as loyal and hard working.  He invests commitment and time into everything he does with a firm understanding of the Tata values. The former Executive Assistant to then Vice Chairman S Ramadorai was so admired that people said ‘TCS’ stood for ‘Take Chandra Seriously’! Even as far back as 1993, his boss saw in his disciple an ability to build world class teams and value systems. 

 

The way forward

The 53-year old marathon runner has a long journey ahead. By all counts, he should be the boss for the next 17 years and has the onerous responsibility of making the multi-disciplinary group stay as a behemoth. Today, companies that focus on a single business are seen as creating greater value for their shareholders. Will he concentrate on the core and do a surgical strike on the peripheral to ensure synergy?

Being the quintessential Tata man, born and bred in the Tata culture, he would know. 

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