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A driven veteran, 'Chandra' signals continuity for Tatas

Chandrasekaran's foremost challenge will be to regain the trust and loss of reputation of Tata group

Reuters 

Chandrasekaran, TCS, tata
N Chandrasekaran. Photo: Kamlesh Pednekar

A three-decade veteran of the conglomerate and front-runner for the top job since the day his predecessor was ousted, Natarajan Chandrasekaran is one of the group's most highly regarded executives and the man behind its best-performing unit.

A former intern, Chandrasekaran, known as "Chandra", is cited by employees and rivals both for the focus that got him through several marathons and for a prodigious memory.

But a selection panel's unanimous choice on Thursday of the self-effacing lifer to take the reins at holding company Sons is also about a strong desire for loyalty and continuity - even if he is unrelated to the family and will be the first non-Parsi to hold the role.

India's largest conglomerate has been badly shaken by a bruising months-long fight between former Chairman Cyrus Mistry, ousted in October, and patriarch Ratan Tata.

Like the Tatas, the Mistrys are part of Mumbai's tight-knit Parsi religious minority, and Cyrus Mistry's sister is married to Ratan Tata's half-brother. Chandrasekaran, by contrast, was born into a south Indian agricultural family, joining in 1987.

To pick Mistry, who succeeded in December 2012, a five-man selection team spent 15 months searching. Chandrasekaran, who also sits on the board of India's central bank, was chosen in less than three months.

"Chandrasekaran's foremost challenge will be to regain the trust and loss of reputation of the group and addressing investor concerns," said Shriram Subramanian, founder of Ingovern, a proxy advisory firm.

"One has to see what his relationship will be with the trust and Mistry's holding companies, and whether he will be a yes-man to Ratan Tata. But from the competency perspective he is fully capable."

BACKROOM OPERATOR

An avid photographer turned marathon runner later in life, Chandrasekaran has run Consultancy Services - India's most valuable company, accounting for the single largest share of Sons profit - since 2009.

Before taking on from his leaf-fringed, colonial office in south Mumbai, Chandra, now 53, was seen by rivals and insiders as a backroom operator. He was strong on technology, they said, but low on charisma compared with industry peers such as Infosys Ltd founders N.R. Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani.

Then 46, he was one of the youngest CEOs of the group.

Critics forecast his quiet presence would struggle to engage the top bosses of overseas clients to win deals and retain existing clients in the cutthroat Indian outsourcing industry.

Chandrasekaran surprised: a cautious and meticulous manager, he embraced the sales role. TCS's shares and revenue have risen almost fourfold since he took over, while headcount almost tripled.

"Chandrasekaran instilled aggression into TCS," said Vibhor Singhal, vice president at Mumbai-based broker PhillipCapital. "It was under him that forayed into newer geographies like Japan, and took to new automation platforms, like Ignio."

But his new role will test more than his sales skills - it will also call for diplomacy as he rebuilds ties and relationships.

"He is a professional, and not related to the Tatas which makes him unbiased, and that will help him in gaining confidence of small and large shareholders," said Deven Choksey, managing director at K R Choksey Shares and Securities.

"I expect the market to take this news positively and company shares to gain."

Married, Chandrasekaran lives in central Mumbai with his wife and teenaged son

A driven veteran, 'Chandra' signals continuity for Tatas

Chandrasekaran's foremost challenge will be to regain the trust and loss of reputation of Tata group

Chandrasekaran's foremost challenge will be to regain the trust and loss of reputation of the Tata group
A three-decade veteran of the conglomerate and front-runner for the top job since the day his predecessor was ousted, Natarajan Chandrasekaran is one of the group's most highly regarded executives and the man behind its best-performing unit.

A former intern, Chandrasekaran, known as "Chandra", is cited by employees and rivals both for the focus that got him through several marathons and for a prodigious memory.

But a selection panel's unanimous choice on Thursday of the self-effacing lifer to take the reins at holding company Sons is also about a strong desire for loyalty and continuity - even if he is unrelated to the family and will be the first non-Parsi to hold the role.

India's largest conglomerate has been badly shaken by a bruising months-long fight between former Chairman Cyrus Mistry, ousted in October, and patriarch Ratan Tata.

Like the Tatas, the Mistrys are part of Mumbai's tight-knit Parsi religious minority, and Cyrus Mistry's sister is married to Ratan Tata's half-brother. Chandrasekaran, by contrast, was born into a south Indian agricultural family, joining in 1987.

To pick Mistry, who succeeded in December 2012, a five-man selection team spent 15 months searching. Chandrasekaran, who also sits on the board of India's central bank, was chosen in less than three months.

"Chandrasekaran's foremost challenge will be to regain the trust and loss of reputation of the group and addressing investor concerns," said Shriram Subramanian, founder of Ingovern, a proxy advisory firm.

"One has to see what his relationship will be with the trust and Mistry's holding companies, and whether he will be a yes-man to Ratan Tata. But from the competency perspective he is fully capable."

BACKROOM OPERATOR

An avid photographer turned marathon runner later in life, Chandrasekaran has run Consultancy Services - India's most valuable company, accounting for the single largest share of Sons profit - since 2009.

Before taking on from his leaf-fringed, colonial office in south Mumbai, Chandra, now 53, was seen by rivals and insiders as a backroom operator. He was strong on technology, they said, but low on charisma compared with industry peers such as Infosys Ltd founders N.R. Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani.

Then 46, he was one of the youngest CEOs of the group.

Critics forecast his quiet presence would struggle to engage the top bosses of overseas clients to win deals and retain existing clients in the cutthroat Indian outsourcing industry.

Chandrasekaran surprised: a cautious and meticulous manager, he embraced the sales role. TCS's shares and revenue have risen almost fourfold since he took over, while headcount almost tripled.

"Chandrasekaran instilled aggression into TCS," said Vibhor Singhal, vice president at Mumbai-based broker PhillipCapital. "It was under him that forayed into newer geographies like Japan, and took to new automation platforms, like Ignio."

But his new role will test more than his sales skills - it will also call for diplomacy as he rebuilds ties and relationships.

"He is a professional, and not related to the Tatas which makes him unbiased, and that will help him in gaining confidence of small and large shareholders," said Deven Choksey, managing director at K R Choksey Shares and Securities.

"I expect the market to take this news positively and company shares to gain."

Married, Chandrasekaran lives in central Mumbai with his wife and teenaged son
image
Business Standard
177 22

A driven veteran, 'Chandra' signals continuity for Tatas

Chandrasekaran's foremost challenge will be to regain the trust and loss of reputation of Tata group

A three-decade veteran of the conglomerate and front-runner for the top job since the day his predecessor was ousted, Natarajan Chandrasekaran is one of the group's most highly regarded executives and the man behind its best-performing unit.

A former intern, Chandrasekaran, known as "Chandra", is cited by employees and rivals both for the focus that got him through several marathons and for a prodigious memory.

But a selection panel's unanimous choice on Thursday of the self-effacing lifer to take the reins at holding company Sons is also about a strong desire for loyalty and continuity - even if he is unrelated to the family and will be the first non-Parsi to hold the role.

India's largest conglomerate has been badly shaken by a bruising months-long fight between former Chairman Cyrus Mistry, ousted in October, and patriarch Ratan Tata.

Like the Tatas, the Mistrys are part of Mumbai's tight-knit Parsi religious minority, and Cyrus Mistry's sister is married to Ratan Tata's half-brother. Chandrasekaran, by contrast, was born into a south Indian agricultural family, joining in 1987.

To pick Mistry, who succeeded in December 2012, a five-man selection team spent 15 months searching. Chandrasekaran, who also sits on the board of India's central bank, was chosen in less than three months.

"Chandrasekaran's foremost challenge will be to regain the trust and loss of reputation of the group and addressing investor concerns," said Shriram Subramanian, founder of Ingovern, a proxy advisory firm.

"One has to see what his relationship will be with the trust and Mistry's holding companies, and whether he will be a yes-man to Ratan Tata. But from the competency perspective he is fully capable."

BACKROOM OPERATOR

An avid photographer turned marathon runner later in life, Chandrasekaran has run Consultancy Services - India's most valuable company, accounting for the single largest share of Sons profit - since 2009.

Before taking on from his leaf-fringed, colonial office in south Mumbai, Chandra, now 53, was seen by rivals and insiders as a backroom operator. He was strong on technology, they said, but low on charisma compared with industry peers such as Infosys Ltd founders N.R. Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani.

Then 46, he was one of the youngest CEOs of the group.

Critics forecast his quiet presence would struggle to engage the top bosses of overseas clients to win deals and retain existing clients in the cutthroat Indian outsourcing industry.

Chandrasekaran surprised: a cautious and meticulous manager, he embraced the sales role. TCS's shares and revenue have risen almost fourfold since he took over, while headcount almost tripled.

"Chandrasekaran instilled aggression into TCS," said Vibhor Singhal, vice president at Mumbai-based broker PhillipCapital. "It was under him that forayed into newer geographies like Japan, and took to new automation platforms, like Ignio."

But his new role will test more than his sales skills - it will also call for diplomacy as he rebuilds ties and relationships.

"He is a professional, and not related to the Tatas which makes him unbiased, and that will help him in gaining confidence of small and large shareholders," said Deven Choksey, managing director at K R Choksey Shares and Securities.

"I expect the market to take this news positively and company shares to gain."

Married, Chandrasekaran lives in central Mumbai with his wife and teenaged son

image
Business Standard
177 22