Bhaskar Bhat, managing director of watch and jewellery manufacturer Titan Industries, might take over the reins at Tata Motors, when Prakash M Telang, the current managing director of the auto maker, retires next month.
Telang, who will turn 65 next month, has been at the helm since June 2009 after his predecessor, Ravi Kant, was appointed non-executive vice-chairman of the company.
Bhat, a mechanical engineer from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, has been spearheading operations at Titan Industries since 2002. Titan Industries is the world’s fifth-largest wrist watch manufacturer. It also sells jewellery under the brand name Tanishq.
Company sources say Bhat, 56, who has spent close to 30 years with the Tatas and is instrumental in taking Titan’s turnover to over Rs 6,000 crore, will replace Telang. A spokesperson at Tata Motors termed the news speculative and declined to comment.
Apart from Bhat, another name has also cropped up in the list of probables. According to reports, Ravi Pisharody, president of the commercial vehicles business unit (CVBU) at Tata Motors, is also seen in the race for the top post.
Pisharody, like Kant and Telang, comes from a commercial vehicle background, while Bhat has had no experience in the automobile sector. Pisharody was promoted as the head of CVBU in June 2009. Prior to the promotion, he was vice-president, sales and marketing, CVBU. Compared to Bhat, Pisharody has spent lesser number of years under the Tata banner. Both executives have age on their side, as both of them are 56 and have nine years of service left in them.
After the exit of group chief executive and managing director Carl-Peter Forster more than six months ago, Tata Motors has not appointed anyone as a replacement. Forster, along with Kant, was responsible for the successful turnaround of operations at UK-based Jaguar Land Rover.
Frenchman Ralf Speth, looks after the JLR operations as its CEO. He was appointed as director on the board of Tata Motors in November 2010. JLR contributes to 67 per cent of Tata Motors' consolidated revenues and 90 per cent of the company's consolidated net profit.
Telang's retirement comes at a time when Tata Motors is preparing for an even more intense competition at home both in the passenger and commercial vehicle segment. Telang had been tasked to promote the Nano while also managing expansion of Tata Motors in Thailand and South Africa.
Further, Kant who is now 68 can remain as the vice-chairman of the company only for the next two years. Last year Tata Group has lowered the retirement age of non-executive directors on the boards of all Tata Group companies to 70 from 75, a move that has reduced the tenures of several top executives in the Tata Group.
Though demand for JLR has marked a significant growth since Tata Motors bought the two brands four years ago, prevailing global economic uncertainty has posed a question mark over the two brands sustained performance.
Some of the projects of Tata Motors is running behind schedule including the launch of the diesel powered Nano and the new Safari Merlin. New complex initiatives such as establishing several international manufacturing destination for the Nano is yet to take off.