June 2006 | Candida Moraes
A man for all seasons
Harsh Jha, MD of Tata Metaliks, is a manager with the heart of a poet
"I am an actor and I consider my office a stage where I perform daily." Shades of Shakespeare? Not quite; this actor happens to be Harsh Jha, managing director of Tata Metaliks, now one of he world's largest pig iron manufacturers.
A man of many talents, he declares that he is somewhat of an introvert — rather difficult to believe when one sees him interacting with people in his office, from the office peon to senior managers. Mr Jha explains that he is not comfortable baring his soul to people he does not know on a personal level, though he has great working relationships with colleagues.
The other side
Mr Jha has never really sat down to wonder whether any particular incident or accident influenced his life path. "When my school results were announced, I found out that I had equal marks in both arts and science," he says. The two areas have been an equal passion with him since. Through his engineering studies at the Birsa Institute of Technology, Sindri, and his business management specialisation from Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur, Mr Jha's love for the fine arts has continued.
Apart from cracking deals and motivating his team, Mr Jha enjoys reading books, visiting art galleries and, hold your breath, reciting poems aloud when he is alone at home. "I have a large collection of books on subjects that interest me." His collection ranges from biographies to management tomes, from bestsellers to technical engineering journals.
He has a unique way of listening to music. "I like to lock the doors of the room, switch off the lights and put on music in the dead of night, when everything around me is quiet. That's when I can really immerse myself in it," he says. Mr Jha believes this is the best form of relaxation and intellectual rejuvenation. His choice of music varies from Indian classical to soft pop, but never hard rock.
For better or verse
Then there is Mr Jha the poetry buff: "I love to note bits of poetry that appeal to me, and then recite them aloud," he smiles. And there is the budding poet: "I also write poetry occasionally, and I'm toying with the idea of putting down some verses in the form of a book," he admits.
Work and play
As a rule, he doesn't carry any work home. Whenever he has free time in the office, he prefers to sit and plan for the days ahead. When he sees underperformance, it gets him energised, as he takes up the challenge of changing the scenario. Similarly, closed plants and underperforming assets goad him into action and he determinedly sets out to improve the situation.
He hopes to someday start a school for children between the ages of three and eight years, with a different learning environment. Mr Jha says that this particular age group is critical, when children are completely open to new and different ideas, and do not pass value judgements. "I would like to give back to society in a manner that is much more meaningful than what I have done so far, especially in my hometown, Jamshedpur," he sighs. And, when Mr Jha grows silent and distant, you know his mind is working overtime, planning far into the future.