It is not easy to integrate businesses that are stretched across three continents, especially when these acquired companies have illustrious histories of their own. But Tata Chemicals did it in a systematic and inclusive manner, with care and sensitivity.
Says Tata Chemicals managing director R Mukundan: “We took the Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM) as an integrating tool, not just a tool for excellence. We decided to go in for an enterprise-level TBEM assessment process that included all our subsidiaries. While the journey is difficult, we believe that TBEM will bind us more as we align our systems and processes.”
Tata Chemicals’ subsidiaries include the Kenya-based Tata Chemicals Magadi (earlier Magadi Soda Company), the UK-based Tata Chemicals Europe (Brunner Mond) and the US-based Tata Chemicals North America (General Chemical Industrial Products), all of which have come into its fold over the last six years.
Dr Arup Basu, president, new businesses and innovation centre, Tata Chemicals, says that getting the overseas acquisitions on board the TBEM vehicle was not difficult. “The TBEM processes are based on the Malcolm Baldrige model, which originated in the US, and most global companies are familiar with it. The challenge is that overseas firms find it difficult to get their people to devote significant time to work on the TBEM process. Typically, these operations are tightly manned, making it tough to spare people.”
What helped embed the process was that there were two non-negotiable points in the acquisition: the adoption of the Tata ‘code of conduct’ and TBEM. There was no problem about accepting the code, but there were uncertainties about the model. Tata Chemicals solved this issue by giving its acquisitions time to get comfortable with the concept, and that helped to smoothen the path to TBEM acceptance.