The 53-year-old group insider emphasised that he will not shy away from “tough decisions” to drive agility, increase accountability and ensure high performance.
MUMBAI: India’s largest conglomerate by revenues will simplify overlapping business operations, prune its expansive portfolio by consolidating companies which have synergies, create new business clusters such as defence, infrastructure, consumer and retail, financial services and hotels and airlines while supporting the growth of the three largest companies, Tata Consultancy, Tata Steel and Tata Motors. Loss making or marginal operations like Tata Teleservices could be shut down while in capex heavy sectors like aviation multiple JV operations are likely to be streamlined for maximum scale.
“I will be the first to admit that we are very complex. We need to be simplified. I would like to see ourselves as 5,6,7 groups as opposed to 110 companies. The more we see ourselves as (many companies), nothing will get done, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrsekaran said in an interview to ET on Sunday.
The 53-year old group insider who took charge of the corner office eight months back, emphasised that he will not shy away from “tough decisions” to drive agility, increase accountability and ensure high performance. His turnaround strategy pivots on collaboration between similar businesses, and stricter financial discipline to enhance better shareholder returns. Excluding the successful computer software unit, the empire has $25.5 billion in net debt. So he adds “our first priority is fixing the companies balance sheets.”
To solve the legacy problems of the group flagships, Chandra has already hit the ground running. The strategic partnership with Thyssen Krupp for its European steel business will give financial muscle to Tata Steel to double down on the growth prospects in India. “We have delinked the Indian and European opeartions of Tata Steel,” Chandra said. Similarly Tata Power, hamstrung by the loss-making Mundra power plant will have to bring down its debt either by “selling non core assets” or by realigning its geographical footprint.
Tata Morors, for its part, would have to improve market share in commercial vehicles while reducing losses in the passengar -car business before deciding if it needs to have a platform sharing arrangement with a global strategic partner. Chandrasekaran also said it made little sense to invest large sums in Tata Teleservices as it would mean "throwing good money after bad." “Reviving it would need Rs 50,000 -60,000 crore … and that is not a choice.”
“I don't want to criticise decisions that were taken in the past as every decision makes sense in a context. In hindsight, we can question that. We are now in a new context and in that let us take a transformative view, let us rationalise what is required and go forward,” said Chandra as he is popularly known, in his first interview after he took over on February 21. The aviation portfolio may see changes. “You can’t run two airlines each having 15-20 aircraft.”
To drive transformational change, Chandra is also building a new team.
“The amount of things we need to do in terms of consolidation, portfolio mapping, market deals, requires a very strong finance team. So we are hiring…,” he clarifies. “Right talent is key, we should not make too much of this internal or external candidates. It is my job to ensure that the team is integrated.”