Natarajan Chandrasekaran’s phenomenal three-decade journey from an intern at TCS, to the head of the company, and now as Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the $103-billion Group, in a way represents the tenacity of pursuing his passion of distance- running.
The 54-year-old marathoner joined TCS — then one among several Group companies — in 1987 straight out after completing a Master’s in Computer Applications from the Trichy Regional Engineering College in Tamil Nadu and rose through the ranks to become its Managing Director and Chief Executive in 2009, and is now serving his second 5-year term now.
The intervening period of over two decades saw the country’s emergence as an IT superpower, TCS dislodging rivals to become the numero uno company in the sector and also become the Tata Group’s crown jewel as other businesses like steel and auto suffered.
The results seem to have paid-off for Chandra, as he is popularly known. He is the first non-shareholder and a truly non-family person to chair the group, and seems to have piped others including Ratan Tata’s stepbrother Noel Tata, group company JLR’ Ralph Speth, PepsiCo’s Indira Nooyi, ex- Vodafone global chief Arun Sarin among others.
His big moment in the group can arguably be becoming executive assistant to then MD and CEO S Ramadorai, and being groomed to becoming the company head on the boss’ retirement.
Chandra navigated the company through a lot of ups and downs and dislodging bellwether Infosys and to become the largest company by mcap with of close to Rs 5 trillion, and the largest profit centre for the group.
As the head of the Tata Group, he inherits a slew of problems across diverse sectors for which the conglomerate is in the news since October 24 last year when it removed Cyrus Mistry as the Chairman.
Experience gained in steering TCS, which delivers over 80% of the Group’s profits as also other positives like the potential of JLR will be of help for him.
Being a group man will also help as he is deeply rooted in the ethos of the century-old group, unlike Mistry who had come to the group from outside.
It can be noted that along with JLR’s Ralph Speth, Chandra was appointed to the board of Tata Sons on October 25. Since then, he has been a regular at the group HQs Bombay House and has been often seen with Ratan Tata.
In the past three months under the septugenarian interim Chairman Ratan Tata, Chandra was the chosen one to represent the salt-to-software Group’s case before global investors