In a little over a decade, the Tata group’s turnover increased from $10 billion to over $100 billion during Ratan Tata’s chairmanship. Currently, the top four companies alone are valued at over $111 billion. The Brand Custodian takes us inside the workings of the giant conglomerate that is the Tata group—with over a hundred operating companies ranging from salt to steel and from tea to timepieces—and how that success story was crafted.
‘This book was written shortly after I left the Tatas. I wanted to capture my thoughts before age and memory started playing tricks with my recollections! It is essentially a contemporary history of the Tata group through the lens of my own career, during which I worked in proximity to Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry. It covers key episodes of the past three decades while offering observations about the challenges the group will face in the future. It will be of interest for students, business-school faculty, corporate governance experts and, indeed, anybody wanting to learn more about the Tatas,’ says the author, Dr Mukund Rajan.
As executive assistant to the chairman, Mukund Rajan, straight from Oxford where he had gone on a Rhodes scholarship, got to see the heady days of a conglomerate on the move. Rajan witnessed first-hand how Ratan Tata had to contend with the so-called satraps, leaders of large businesses within the group whose loyalties lay with J.R.D.
Tata and who were not always very welcoming towards a new boss a couple of decades younger than themselves. He describes how Ratan Tata dealt with them and then took various measures to consolidate the different businesses; how he created a brand identity for the group and gave it high visibility; how he formed a centralized group structure and documented the values and business philosophy of the Tatas in the Tata Code of Conduct; his move towards internationalization with the acquisition of companies such as Corus, Tetley and Jaguar Land Rover; and other steps that have made Tata the brand it is today. There is also mention of the controversies the group has been involved in, such as the one regarding the Tatas’ alleged dealings with ULFA, the maverick managers who didn’t play by the rules, the Niira Radia tapes and the conflict between Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry, and what transpired thereafter.
Alongside is given Rajan’s own progress within the group—from executive assistant to a director on the boards of VSNL and TTSL; from managing director of Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd to founding managing partner of the Tata Opportunities Fund; from becoming the first brand custodian to his last role as chief ethics officer.