July 2015 | Gayatri Kamath

Bridges are for building

The secret of Tata Chemicals' success is that it strives to deliver value beyond what is expected by the customer

A strong customer connect has enabled Tata Chemicals to grow from humble beginnings in Mithapur (the setting for the children’s dance here) to a company that reaches 600 million consumers each year
Tata Chemicals is, at its heart, a company that makes vast quantities of commodity products like soda ash and salt. How then has this company managed to become the only soda ash enterprise in the world to charge a premium for its soda ash? How has it grown its Tata Salt brand into a ‘superbrand’ that reaches more than half a billion consumers every year? The answer lies in the way that Tata Chemicals deals with its customers.

Zarir Langrana, chief operating officer of the chemicals business (India), says that the company’s customer centricity journey began about 15 years ago, when the Indian market opened up. “India became one of the most competitive markets in the world,” he says. “Our customers were spoiled for choice. We had to change the way we viewed the business.”

In a fightback, Tata Chemicals set about overhauling its customer processes. All the customers were classified into two verticals: key accounts (about 25 in number) and channel accounts. The key accounts included not just the big customers, but also certain mid-sized ones. The rationale was that key accounts had specific needs that Tata Chemicals would meet: customised products, just-in-time delivery, specific packaging requirements, and so on. These accounts are serviced by key account managers.

Tata Chemicals also focuses on measuring the value delivered to the customer and, just as importantly, communicating this to the customer. The company measures a wide range of metrics that have business benefits for the customer. “We measure these metrics and compare them with those of our competitors, we measure the customer value that we deliver, and the customer is able to see value in our work,” says Mr Langrana.

Customer view
The Tata Chemicals team has shown great initiative for system optimisation and has always striven to meet the demand of customers like us with respect to achieving monthly delivery schedules. The relationship has evolved into a partnership...

Swaminathan Eisenhower, director of operations, Saint-Gobain India

This is a shortened version of the main article, which is part of the cover story about the customer-centricity culture of the Tata group featured in the July 2015 issue of Tata Review. Read the complete article here >>
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