Home >Companies >News >Cyrus Mistry begins Tata group makeover

Mumbai: Signalling a generational shift at the helm of the 145-year-old Tata group, chairman Cyrus Mistry has initiated fresh changes in the senior management as he goes about putting his stamp on the salt-to-steel conglomerate after taking over from Ratan Tata, who retired in December.

Mistry, 44, is not only hand-picking members of his A-team with a clear emphasis on youth, but is also creating new positions to ready the $100 billion (around 5.3 trillion crore) group for the next level of growth.

On Wednesday, Tata Sons Ltd, the group’s holding company, announced the appointment of Mukund Rajan, who is the same age as Mistry, as the group’s brand custodian and spokesperson. Rajan, who has spent at least 18 years with the group, will also serve as chief ethics officer. He will report directly to Mistry.

The job of the brand custodian and chief ethics officer assumes significance in the backdrop of Mistry highlighting the values of “quality and collaboration, and the uncompromising adherence to a resilient value system", in his first letter to the group’s employees on 3 January after taking over from Tata, who retired on 28 December.

The appointment will bring Rajan into Mistry’s inner circle along with the likes of Madhu Kannan, 39, former chief executive officer (CEO) of BSE Ltd, who joined the group in 2012 to head the business development department and reports to Mistry.

While most of the functions existed earlier in spirit, the new designations may help further streamline the functions and help Mistry become more effective, say management experts.

“New leaders like to build their own teams of people who they know will be with them for the long term. This ensures continuity of thinking and interaction at the top level," said Morgen Witzel, the management writer who authored Tata: The Evolution of a Corporate Brand.

The chairman’s office has been handling all brand management activities since September 2011, said a group executive who declined to be named.

Brand experts consider these positions “vital and critical" for the conglomerate.

“Every brand needs a custodian who will help to convey what the company and a particular brand stands for. Tata is a huge group and a brand in itself. However, there are numerous other brands under the Tata umbrella and each requires a strategy—different and yet in line with the overall strategy and policy of the group," said Ramanujam Sridhar, founder and CEO of Integrated Brand-Comm Pvt. Ltd, a Bangalore-based brand consulting firm.

Apart from moving young executives to the forefront, Mistry is also creating new teams. For instance, Ajit Krishnakumar, an investment banker at Rothschild India and son of Tata group veteran R.K. Krishnakumar, is being appointed to head a mergers and acquisitions team, The Economic Times newspaper recently reported. His appointment to the position could not be independently confirmed.

Witzel said he had no way of knowing if appointing young executives in key positions was a conscious strategy, but emphasized that leadership is “at heart a team activity" and leaders can only be effective if they can work well with those closest to them.

Ajit Krishnakumar is in his late 30s. Among other relatively young executives of the group, Harish Bhat, 49, was appointed as CEO of Tata Global Beverages Ltd in June last year, and Avani Davda, 33, as CEO of Tata Starbucks Ltd.

The new brigade includes Koushik Chatterjee, executive director and group chief financial officer of Tata Steel Ltd; Karl Slym, managing director (MD) of Tata Motors Ltd; R. Mukundan, MD of Tata Chemicals Ltd; Bhaskar Bhat, MD of Titan Industries Ltd; Vinod Kumar, MD and CEO of Tata Communications Ltd; R. Ramanan, MD and CEO of CMC Ltd; N. Srinath, MD and CEO of Tata Teleservices Ltd; and Brotin Banerjee, CEO of Tata Housing Development Co. Ltd.

Rajan, who started his career with Tata Administrative Services, a managerial development programme of the group, went on to become the MD of Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd and the head of the private equity advisory business.

The young veteran, who has also served as the managing partner of the Tata Opportunities Fund, will now be responsible for all corporate communications and brand-related activities for the group in India and overseas, apart from the corporate social responsibilities of the Tata group.

After taking over as chairman, Mistry announced investment plans of 45,000 crore for the group over the next two years. In his letter to employees, he said the corpus will be used for “spreading of risk, acquisition of technology, access to talent, and investment in long-term growth markets".

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