August 2001

Standing out, standing apart

The JRD QV Award is the pinnacle of an in-house process that recognises and rewards business excellence among Tata Group companies. In this address at the awards function held on July 29, 2001, Group Chairman Ratan Tata celebrates the blossoming of an idea whose time had truly come

Ratan TataI believe that, after the excellent presentations we have seen today, this address can be nothing but an anticlimax.

On days like this, I go back to that time when one wondered whether a great Group like ours, which has made its mark in the country and has a reputation the world over, should have been touched at all, or whether one should have just concerned oneself with continuing the traditions and the manner in which we operated. Being a restless person and perhaps more critical than I ought to be, I thought that we all really needed to change, to move with the times and try to engage with the changes around us.

India is opening up and competition has increased tremendously. Without being critical, it is true that many of our companies had their heads in the sand, and were resting on past glories. In the course of time, the view gained ground that we were less nimble than others, more resistant to change and more set in our ways. What we needed to do, of course, was benchmark ourselves against the best, get away from doing things the way we were, and put certain processes in place.

At that time, I talked to Jim Setna (JK Setna, then chairman of the executive committee of Tata Quality Management Services) and we thought that we should start something to recognise excellence. We decided to institute the JRD QV Award and that's where this whole exercise started. Jim and his team, instead of just putting together an award with a cursory kind of assessment process, thought out a robust and comprehensive process which I think we are all benefiting from now. This process has, in fact, set the tone and laid the foundation for what I believe is one of the important changes we have made in the Group over the last five years.

It's very important for us to realise that the world is moving at a tremendous pace. Many of our companies have not moved fast enough and many of our people still don't see the need for change. Where we can change is to have something to guide that change. And that change has to be embodied through people and processes.

When we started this process, some of us, and certainly I, felt frustrated because I sensed a great deal of cynicism among many people who thought all this was unnecessary, that it was just a fad. Nothing has pleased me more than to sit here today and see that an idea to which we gave birth five years ago has blossomed into something that, hopefully, will be one of the driving forces of change in the Group.

We are going through difficult times in some of the businesses we are in. But I do believe that with the kind of commitment I have seen, and the kind of effort that our mentors and assessors have put into this process, that we will have a very, very important basis on which the Tata Group can move forward. I believe that the commitment we have seen today embodies the pride that people have in the Group.

The Tata Group must lead India in terms of what it does, not only in business but also as a corporate citizen and as a participant in the country's growth. This is a holistic view. We want our managers and companies to drive their businesses using every means they can to achieve their ends, but they must do it in a way, which stands out and continues the traditions that the Group has established over the years.

You have aberrations from time to time; there is no perfect world. It is how we react to those aberrations and how we overcome those issues that will set us apart from the rest. Last year at this time, it was a matter of great happiness to see one of our companies finally win the JRD QV Award. I think Jamshed (Dr JJ Irani, then MD of Tata Steel) and his team deserved every bit of the acknowledgement they received on that occasion.

The Tata Steel people could have taken a holiday, a sabbatical from this whole process, since they knew they could not win the award again, that being what we had decided. But it is really gratifying to see that the company decided to stay with this process and continue to work at it. As Jaggu (G Jagannathan, CEO, TQMS) said, this is a journey that really has no end.

It is very, very important that our companies operate in a manner we can all be proud of and that we develop a holistic sense of excellence. We cannot just be paying lip service to the word excellence; we should have a deep-rooted commitment to excellence, in every sense, in whatever we do.

There are many, many changes of mindset that the Group has to go through. Some of it is in processes but much of it is in our souls. If this Group is to achieve what we hope it can, if it is to remain on top, if it is to thrive on the traditions that our ancestors established, then it needs from every one of you a sense of great dedication and commitment not to operate as we did in 1904 but to operate in 2001, in 2050 and in 2080. And we must go forward holding sacred to ourselves our business integrity, our value systems and our fairness to all our stakeholders.

The Tata Group has a tremendous resource: you and your colleagues in this room, and those outside in several of our companies. The greatest thing we can do is to marshal and direct this synergistic resource to make our Group stand out far above the rest of the businesses in this country. We need to strive for excellence and we have a process before us that will help make this happen.

I would like to personally thank Jim and his team again for giving this whole process the kind of time and effort they have. I would also like to thank everybody else who participated in this great process. This is the start of a journey for you, too, and one recognises and hopes that it will be one of the foundations that we set for ourselves. I really believe that the Tata Group has much to gain from this process in the years to come.

This is the speech Ratan Tata delivered at the JRD QV recognition function held in Mumbai on July 29, 2001.

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