"The business of executive development is one of the most crucial, essential and, at the same time, one of the most difficult elements in providing continuity and efficient management," JRD Tata, the late chairman of the Tata Group, said while inaugurating the Tata Management Training Centre (TMTC) in Pune on January 6, 1966.
JRD, as he was popularly known, believed that there was a dearth of managerial resources in India. A direct outcome of his concerns was TMTC's creation: to provide a training ground for developing future corporate leaders. Housed in a Victorian bungalow set among shaded trees and green lawns, the centre has, over the years, honed the skills of many Indian managers through its world-class training programmes.
TMTC acts as an in-house training centre for performers within the Group; it also acts as a cradle for change. The centre's expertise includes knowledge management, and it acts as a repository and disseminator of best practices and values in the Tata Group.
One of the principal concerns at the centre is change on the global business scale. The challenges generated by the world's changing economic scenario have found, at TMTC, a response in the shape of transformation of the institute's programmes.
B Bowonder, director, TMTC, and head of the institute, is charting a new course for the 38-year-old management centre. His ambition is to make TMTC the best in the management industry, and he plans to do this by benchmarking it with similar institutions in India and abroad. "The next level of growth for TMTC will accrue through new knowledge creation from unique and relevant courses," he says.
Earlier the centre focused equally on Tata and non-Tata companies but this will now change. "Only 20 per cent of our programmes will be targeted at outsiders. These can become our source of knowledge because we can learn a lot from non-Tata companies," says Dr Bowonder. A five-point agenda — globalisation, cost reduction, value creation, innovation and leadership development — laid down by the Tata Group Corporate Centre (GCC) is acting as a broad guideline for long-term thinking at TMTC. The focus is now on aligning training programmes with the strategic needs of the Tata Group. The aim: to develop and strengthen the leadership in Tata companies.
TMTC is spending time with companies discussing their needs and designing courses to suit their individual requirements. The focus is on developing customised programmes rather than general ones. "The course content will be reviewed regularly and modified to suit specific needs," explains Dr Bowonder. "Apart from the usual schedule, we will also design programmes based on a particular company's requirement. For example, if a company wants a course on new product development, we will arrange that." And that is the USP of the changing TMTC — other management institutes do not offer such programmes.
The faculty profile is also changing. TMTC is now concentrating on getting the best faculty from across the world as well as in India. Harvard professors such as Krishna Palepu, Nitin Nohria and Narakesari Narayandas are regular visitors to the centre. A high-level programme on the Tata brand case study has also been conducted with Harvard University.
The Kellogg School of Management has been identified for collaboration in the telecom sector, where the Tata Group has become a major player. "We are trying to give managers in this area a feel of the business and the market," says Dr Bowonder. "We are also looking at answering questions about the future of their businesses, the strategies and synergies required for sustenance, and for beating the competition."
TMTC recently bid for and won a contract from the Singapore government to conduct an India-specific management programme for a delegation from International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, an organisation of the Singapore government that helps that country's companies expand globally. Called the India Executive Management Programme, this course was held in June 2004 at TMTC and attended by 20 senior Singaporean decision-makers.
The programme provided the delegation a comprehensive introduction to the Indian business environment. "We gave them a feel of Indian business and markets. We also highlighted the country's business potential, and the strategies and synergies needed to be successful here," says Dr Bowonder.
Besides focusing on helping senior managers enhance their knowledge, TMTC also caters to new managers. Young leaders who join the Group through TAS attend specific programmes at TMTC designed to inculcate the Group's values and prepare these managers for senior positions in Tata companies.
During the year 2004, TMTC has more than 55 different courses on offer. These do not include company-specific programmes conducted outside the TMTC campus.
Apart from its special programmes TMTC's activities include teaching, research, seminars, consultancy and publishing of journals. To enhance learning and to share best practices across the group, TMTC is putting together a knowledge management portal, which will initially contain company-specific information and practices. It subscribes to many global databases for material on teaching, problem-solving and even leisure reading. Initially to be accessed by Tata employees, the portal may be spun off as a subscription-based facility for outsiders, according to Dr Bowonder.
Researching Tata cases is also high on the TMTC agenda. This will be done with the help of individual Group companies. Work has already begun on cases on Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Chemicals and Tanishq. "We want people to refer to these case reports as they would something from Harvard," says Dr Bowonder.
The earnestness with which TMTC has undertaken the task of executive development is a reflection of the seriousness with which the Tata Group has taken competence-building efforts. It is also a measure of the importance the Tata Group gives to its biggest asset — its people.