'Humbled' Chandrasekaran rises at Tata Sons

N Chandrasekaran has just completed his most successful marathon and will begin another on February 21. Thirty years after joining Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), where he became managing director and chief executive officer in 2009, Chandra — as he is popularly known — was named the next executive chairman of Tata Sons on Thursday.

He will take charge as the seventh chairman of the Tata group’s holding company from February 21, succeeding Cyrus Mistry, who was sacked on performance grounds.

“This is as per the unanimous recommendation of the Selection Committee,” said a statement from Tata Sons. 

“Mr. Chandrasekaran has demonstrated exemplary leadership as the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services,” stated the board of Tata Sons. “We believe he will now inspire the entire Tata group to realise its potential acting as leaders in their respective businesses, always in keeping with our value system and ethics and adhering with the practices of the Tata group, which have stood it in good stead."

After the Tata Sons board meet to decide the conglomerate head on Thursday, as the news of Chandrasekaran leaving Bombay House flowed in, around 20 people from the TCS management team came down in the lobby area to welcome their leader. These included Rajesh Gopinathan, Ajoyendra Mukherjee and Aarthi  Subramanian. 

As Chandrasekaran stepped into TCS House, he was greeted with applause and a congratulatory shout out from teammates. Amid a host of wishes, the smile on his face widened. “I will see you all in 15-20 minutes,” he said, while taking the lift to his office on the second floor.

In a statement after his appointment, he said he was “humbled and honoured” to be chosen to lead an institution that occupies a unique position in the hearts of people in India and the world. “At the Tata group, we are at an inflection point. I am aware that this role comes with huge responsibilities. It will be my endeavour to help progress the group with the ethos, ethics and values that the Tata group has been built on.”

According to a Tata Sons spokesperson, the appointment defused criticism that interim chairman Ratan Tata was trying to take control of the group.

On Chandrasekaran’s watch, TCS revenue jumped more than threefold to Rs 1.09 lakh crore in FY16. Profits also went up over three times to Rs 24,375 crore. 

TCS now accounts for 56 per cent of the Tata group’s combined market capitalisation of $116 billion, besides contributing 73.7 per cent to group holding company Tata Sons’ revenue, which comes from dividends of its listed entities. He has also made TCS the biggest cash generator for Tata Sons — contributing almost 90 per cent to the Tata Sons coffers in 2014-15.  

Now as chairman of the group’s primary holding company, Chandrasekaran will be responsible for the growth of the near a-century-and-a-half old group, with over 100 operating companies across businesses as diversified as salt and steel. The group businesses include watches, retail, auto, aviation, power and defence.