Seven years ago, a 35-year-old principal executive officer to the managing director of an iconic company, said: “I have learned, by proxy, how a company is run.”
Little did he know then that in less than a decade he will eventually end up running the company for real.
T V Narendran (pictured), currently the vice-president – safety and flat products of Tata Steel, said these words in 2005-06 after his two years’ stint as the right hand man of B Muthuraman, the managing director of Tata Steel.
On Thursday evening Narendran himself was appointed as the managing director-designate of Tata Steel and will take over the reins of H M Nerurkar, the current managing director, who is retiring on October 31.
“If we look in hindsight, Narendran had been groomed for the top job since the time he joined and that’s what helped him beat six other vice-presidents in the race to be the next head of the company,” said J J Irani, former managing director of Tata Steel.
Irani had worked with Narendran when the latter was a young employee still learning the ropes of the company.
He said while he can’t recall any one remarkable incident about Narendran’s managing skills, Irani said he is known to be a shrewd operator, a balanced person and highly effective in every department of the company where he has worked.
“He is head and shoulders above all other who were in the race due to his expertise,” he said.
Narendran worked in the International Trading Division of Tata Steel from 1988 to 1997, right after his MBA from IIM Calcutta.
Then he spent five years in Dubai looking after Tata Steel’s exports to the Middle East and thereafter from 1997 to 2001 he spent time in Tata Steel’s marketing and sales division and involved in market development work for the cold rolling mill, supply chain management, sales planning, etc.
From 2001 to 2003, he was the chief of marketing and sales (long products) and played a key role in building the ‘Tata Tiscon’ brand and the distribution network for it, after which he worked under Muthuraman.
He was also actively involved in the Tata Steel’s first overseas acquisition – NatSteel – and became the president and chief executive officer in January 2008.
While the industry outside the company hardly know about him, experts say Narendran’s appointment is said to be a fruit of the “positive disruptive thinking” that Cyrus Mistry initiated after the appointment of N S Rajan as the head of human resources in April 2013, from EY (the erstwhile Ernst & Young).
Yogesh Saigal, an independent HR veteran and consultant, said when Rajan is advising Mistry, you ought to have newer appointments at top levels who are younger, smarter and have a fresh approach of the newer times – a paradigm shift from Ratan Tata’s style of functioning.