Srinath Narasimhan, a Tata Group veteran, was on Wednesday appointed chief executive officer (CEO) of Tata Trusts with effect from April 1.
Srinath joins at a time when the trusts are facing litigation with the income tax department over its tax status. Also, the group is in the middle of a legal dispute with its former chairman Cyrus Mistry.
Tata Trusts owns 66 per cent stake in Tata Sons, the holding company of the group.
Narasimhan is currently managing director of Tata Teleservices, which sold its loss-making wireless telephony business to Bharti Airtel for free. But Tata Tele paid its bank debt and government dues worth Rs 60,000 crore.
Narasimhan has held coveted positions in the Tata Group, including the post of managing director of Tata Communications. He had joined Tata Administrative Services in 1986.
In another top appointment, Pramit Jhaveri, former CEO of Citi India and former vice-chairman of banking, capital markets and advisory for Asia-Pacific of the American bank, was inducted as a trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust with immediate effect.
In February last year, R Venkataramanan (popularly known as Venkat) had stepped down as managing trustee of Tata Trusts.
Subsequently, a search committee led by Ratan Tata, interviewed several internal employees as well as professionals from elsewhere to select a CEO and finally zeroed in on Srinath by November.
After Venkat’s resignation, Tata Trusts was managed by Ratan Tata along with a core group of officials. Among other recent changes in the organisation, Noel Tata, Ratan Tata’s half-brother, was appointed a trustee of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, which is the second biggest trust in the Tata Trusts fold. One of the immediate challenges before Srinath will be to handle the litigation with the income tax department.
On October 31 last year, the I-T department cancelled the registration of six trusts (not the bigger ones) operating under Tata Trusts. It cited violation of norms applicable to charitable institutions. This may result in a tax liability of about Rs 12,000 crore.
The Tatas are challenging the date of the order, which makes the trusts liable to pay a much higher amount of tax under the new tax provision introduced in June 2016 concerning charitable trusts.
Tata Trusts is of the view that the cancellation should apply retrospectively, as it had offered to surrender the registration in 2015. This is about a year before the new tax provision became effective.
Srinath will have to continue the work by the trusts in the field of education, health, environment and sanitation, among others. Tata Trusts today runs some of India’s mega charitable programmes from the money it earns as dividend from Tata Sons.