Cyrus Mistry's successors: Short profiles of the three likely candidates
Will the board decide to play safe and chose someone from the Tata family or an insider within the group with an exceptional talent
The ongoing tussle between Tata board and the ousted chairman Cyrus Mistry looks to be a long-drawn affair, after the latter was unceremoniously removed from the position earlier this week due to his alleged failure to adopt to the group's culture.
While Mistry has been shown the door, the board asked Ratan Tata to head the group for an interim period of four months. Post this, Tata Sons board will appoint a new chairman to lead the conglomerate.
So, the million dollar question is who will take guard at the country's largest well-diversified private sector with a valuation of more than $104 billion.
Will the board decide to play safe and chose someone from the Tata family or an insider within the group with an exceptional talent?
Here's a short profile of the top three contenders, which the Tata board might look at to lead the group:
Natarajan Chandrasekaran: The current CEO and managing director of the country's largest software company Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) could be one of the leading person to get the top job at the Tatas. A close confidante of Ratan Tata, Chandrasekaran was one of the two key officials to be appointed as an additional director on the Tata Sons board; the other being Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover.
At a time when most of the Tata group companies are witnessing challenging times due to rising debt and weak business prospects as alleged by Cyrus Mistry, TCS has emerged as a bright spot in such uncertain times.
Under Chandrasekaran's leadership, TCS has clocked revenues of $16.5 billion in the previous fiscal year 2015-16, and has over 350,000 consultants. TCS also remains the most valuable company in India during 2015-16 with a market capitalisation of over $70 billion. Chandrasekaran has been part of the Tata group for almost three decades now, and one who enjoys strong backing of the group.
Chandrasekaran is also popularly known as Chandra, and Ratan Tata admires his patience, persevering and observant qualities, a Hindustan Times report says.
Despite a challenging business environment, TCS still accounts for over 60 percent of the group's combined market capitalisation of $116 billion. It also currently contributes 70 percent to Tata Sons' revenue, which comes from dividends of its listed firms.
Chandra also has a huge risk-taking appetite, which can be seen by his decision to set up BPO operations in Saudi Arabia to service energy clients such as Saudi Aramco and General Electric. Faced with huge competition, Chandra came out with a solution to set up an all-women centre, an unique proposition in a conservative Islamic land.
Ralf Speth: Ralf Dieter Speth, the current chief executive officer of Jaguar Land Rover, is also one of the key probables the group could consider following his impressive performance at the Tata's automotive arm.
He became CEO of Jaguar Land Rover in February 2010, and holds the post of a non-exeutive director at Tata Motors since November 2010.
Along with Chandrasekaran, Speth was also appointed as an Additional Director to the board of Tata Sons. Last year, he was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to the automotive industry.
Besides TCS, the Tata group has relied heavily on Tata Motors, whose record-breaking profits over the past few years has been led by robust sales of JLR cars.
The turnaround of JLR can be attributed to Speth's strong leadership, as the two British iconic cars had suffered heavily under its previous owner Ford. Under him, the company's free cash flow grew to 3.9 billion pound, after the brands were brought by Tatas in 2008.
“JLR brings in the money for Tata Motors and also prestige to the group. Ralf has made the products work against the Germans, which is a big achievement. JLR is the biggest name for the Tata empire across the world,” the Hindustan Times report quoted London-based Deepesh Rathore, co-founder of Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors.
Speth has a remarkable career in the global automotive industry, having worked with BMW for 20 years and later with Ford Motor Company before moving to Tatas thereafter following the acquisition of JLR.
Noel Tata: For the second time, Noel Tata's name has emerged as a likely successor for the chairman's post at the Tatas. Being a part of the Tata family, Noel Tata was also a strong contender to succeed Ratan Tata in 2012 before his brother-in-law Cyrus Mistry was chosen ahead of him to lead the group.
Also, being the half-brother of the present chairman of Tata group, Ratan Tata, Noel Tata could be once again in the reckoning for the all-important post. He is currently the Chairman of Trent Ltd and Managing Director of Tata International. Trent operates through Westside stores, a decent profitable venture. In 2003, he was appointed as the director of Titan Industries and of Voltas.
Even as the hunt for a new chairman by the Tata board will intensify in coming days, it would be interesting to see who finally gets the honour to lead the group next year. However, the group needs to first come out and clear of some of the grave charges levelled by Mistry.
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