Change has come to Tata Chemicals, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Motors, and Tata Steel, and it has happened at the top. We bring you the thoughts and views — on business and industry, life and leisure — of five Tata managing directors who have taken charge of their companies.
Here, N Chandrasekaran, newly appointed MD of Tata Consultancy Services, speaks with Philip Chacko about what it feels like to lead the international IT company and the leadership challenges the role presents
You have become the managing director of a Tata company at a relatively young age. How does it feel? Did you think, when you joined Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), that you would get to this position this fast?
I feel privileged by the opportunity to lead a great company such as TCS. Every position I have ever held in TCS has been an end in itself — full of rich experiences and learning — and not the means to an end. When I joined the organisation 23 years ago, I did not specifically think about reaching this position.
Are you relishing the responsibility of being the managing director, do you feel apprehensive?
I feel excited and energised by the immense opportunity to build on the capabilities of our 140,000 associates, so that we can all realise our potential and take the company to greater heights on the world stage. Coming out of the global economic downturn, the technology market worldwide holds tremendous potential for TCS. With our strong customer base, our services offering, multi-domain capability and presence in emerging markets, I believe we are optimally positioned to capitalise on this opportunity.
It is sometimes said that it’s easier for professionals in the IT segment to get to the top. Is that really so?
The sustained high growth rates secured by the Indian information technology industry over the past two decades has created many leadership positions across organisations. Moreover, the nature of the industry has given young managers exposure to global customers and global competition early on in their careers. This has helped in the grooming of the current breed of young leaders in this industry.
What are the most important qualities that a business leader ought to posses, and why?
Today’s leaders have to be agile in thought and action. Operating in a rapidly changing and volatile economic environment means there may often be a need to carry out course corrections, especially in the context of a global business.
Another important quality is the ability to listen and accept feedback and contrarian opinions and perspectives. More information may not always help you make a better decision, but looking at the issue through multiple lenses is helpful in reaching the right decision.
How do you see TCS evolving in the next five years or so? What are the big challenges the company faces?
Even with $6 billion in revenues, TCS’s global market share is barely 1 per cent of the total technology spend worldwide. So there is enormous room for us to grow in every market, from the United States to Latin America and from Europe to Asia.
As we diversify beyond information technology services and scale up our other business lines — among them business process outsourcing, infrastructure services and product solutions — we are emerging as the partner of choice and business advisor for many global corporations.
Could you tell us a bit about the turning points in your professional life?
I do not regard any moment as the turning point in my professional life. I look at my 23-year career as a journey where every situation, every assignment has enabled me to learn something new.
Who are the people that have influenced you, personally and professionally?
Personally, my parents, who instilled in me the values of perseverance and integrity.
Professionally, many people have made an impression on me. Even today, I am influenced daily by the colleagues around me, who bring to the table fresh ideas, new ways of thinking and multiple perspectives.
As you rise up the ladder, does it get more difficult to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance? How do you manage this?
I have always believed that you can find the time for the things that you really want to do. I took up long-distance running in 2007. Now, despite my hectic travel schedule, I manage to run regardless of where I am in the world and what time zone I am in. Similarly, with the other things that I want to do, whether it is being with the family or watching a movie, I find the time to do it; it’s a matter of being clear about what you really want and then making sure it happens.
What are your interests outside of work? How do you unwind?
As a family, we like the outdoors; we go on treks and other nature-led holidays. I enjoy classical music, chess and Tamil literature. I was recently gifted a Kindle and have been fascinated by it.