Stress and trauma of Covid-19 hold big space for renewal: Tata Sons chief

The year-end note by Tata group’s top boss typically touches on the plans and priorities for the year ahead
In his New Year message to 700,000 employees, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran said though the year had been hard, buried in the stress and trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic are opportunities for renewal.

“Pandemics have, in the past, inspired progress in medicine, urban planning, architecture, and countless other fields. This one will be the same,” said Chandra, adding that this moment is akin to walking on a bridge.

“But it’s a special bridge, because we are not simply walking to see what is on the other side. Instead, we have a hand in building our destination,” he wrote in the note.

The year-end note by Tata Group’s top boss typically touches upon plans and priorities for the year ahead. But this year, the chairman of the $113-billion salt-to-software conglomerate struck a personal chord.

Thanking his colleagues for facing the challenges Covid-19 brought, Chandra said, "Your work this year has made me prouder than ever to lead this group."

“The logistical challenges that consumed the senior leadership team over the past year do not compare to the personal challenges many of you have faced,” he said, as he expressed his deep sympathies with those who have been directly impacted by the pandemic.

He also acknowledged the burden Tata employees shouldered with great professionalism.

“From delivering meals to migrants and health workers to building hospitals and collecting public health data, to putting in efforts to develop a path-breaking CRISPR test for Covid-19, we have seen the best of One Tata,” wrote Chandra.  

The chairman of the group’s holding firm has plenty on his plate in the new calendar year - from high debt and health crisis to trade deal staring the UK, its largest market outside India. 

Tata Group entered the year with high debt. The group’s listed firms had a combined gross debt of Rs 3.27 trillion at the end of March this year — up 17.3 per cent year-on-year (YoY). This translated into a gross debt-to-equity ratio of 1.1x.

The group’s leverage ratio in 2019-20 was the highest in five years. Besides, Tata Sons had a total borrowing of Rs 22,000 crore at the end of March this year — up 30 per cent YoY.

The pandemic has bruised businesses, particularly in the UK. If the uncertainty related to the Brexit wasn’t enough, the latest health crisis triggered by a new strain of the coronavirus is set to further compound its woes. 

More than 40 countries have banned UK arrivals over concerns about the novel coronavirus mutation.

Britain and the European Union are in deadlock as the December 31 deadline for Brexit nears, with disputes over issues, such as fisheries, plaguing negotiations.

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