Chandra’s 1 year as Tata chief: Mergers done, disputes settled, debts paid; what’s next on his mind?

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Updated: February 21, 2018 3:52:51 PM

Natarajan Chandrasekaran aka N Chandrasekaran aka Chandra is the first non-Parsi and third non-Tata chief of the 150-year-old Tata Group. Here's what he has accomplished so far, and what he is planning to do in coming years.

N Chandra completes one year at Tata GroupChandra’s 1 year as Tata chief: Mergers done, disputes settled, debts paid; what’s next on his mind? (Image: Reuters)

Natarajan Chandrasekaran aka N Chandrasekaran aka Chandra is the first non-Parsi and third non-Tata chief of the 150-year-old Tata Group. He took over at the helm of the conglomerate a year ago after the messy ouster of Cyrus Mistry and at a time when it was facing critical challenges on many fronts — from Tata Motors’ domestic business to its telecom venture.

In the following 12 months, a lot of work was done: From settling disputes to repaying debts to closing merger deals. What really added a feather in Chandra’s hat was the fact that the group’s IT services unit Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) not only topped Rs 6 trillion market valuation several times in last two months but also pipped Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries briefly.

News agency PTI, quoting an unidentified Bombay House insider, reported that Chandra’ first year in office was about finding solutions to legacy issues like the Tata Teleservices-NTT Docomo dispute, revamping Tata Motor’s domestic operations and also divesting Tata Steel’s cash burning European operations.

Analysts say that Chandra is serious about core business growth and does not seem to hesitate while exiting the loss-making non-core businesses. Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy told CNBC-TV18 that Chandra’s decision making is in the best interest of investors and the conglomerate.

As N Chandrasekaran begins the second year as group chief, he is expected to focus more on expanding the steel and auto business — the group’s other two cash cows apart from TCS. Last month, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Chandra said that the group will double down its investment in the auto segment and will also continue with large investments in core steel business.

To begin with, Tata Steel is already being reported to be the largest bidder in the race for taking over the bludgeoning Bhushan Steel which has a worth between Rs 40,000 crore and Rs 70,000 crore. The decision is a key move in expanding the steel business after he agreed to merge the bleeding European business of Tata Steel with German multinational conglomerate ThyssenKrupp.

It was not the only merger deal done to exit cash-burning businesses. In Chandra’s tenure, the Tata Group agreed to merge its mobile business services with Bharti Airtel in no-debt and no-cash deal. A long-pending legal dispute in Tata Teleservices was also settled; clearing road for Japanese investor to exist its stake NTT DoCoMo.

On one hand, the group’s auto unit launched two passenger cars — Tigor and Nexon, and on the other, the production of loss-making Rs 1 lakh-Nano was brought down significantly. While hitting the road, the Tata Group may also be eyeing the sky.

Although Chandra has refused to speak about what the group will do or will not do about Air India disinvestment, media reports have suggested that the Tata Group is interested in getting the national-carrier, which was owned by the group before 1953, fly back to its home-base.

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