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Can Nirmalya Kumar help Tatas tide over the tough times?

Last updated on: July 19, 2013 19:34 IST

Can Nirmalya Kumar help Tatas tide over the tough times?

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Alokananda Chakraborty

Nirmalya Kumar, who is a prolific writer and speaker, was called "a rising superstar" by The Economist.

To say that Nirmalya Kumar has enjoyed a groundbreaking career is to say the very least. 

Indeed, together with hard work, breaking new ground has been a theme that has followed Kumar, professor of marketing and co-director of Aditya Birla India Centre at the London Business School, who is slated to join the Tata group as a member of its group executive council from August 1, throughout his career.

The London Business School website describes him as “an outlier among marketing professors”, having accomplished the rare feat of publishing six articles each in both the Journal of Marketing Research (a premier journal for marketing academics) and The Harvard Business Review (a premier journal for business practice). His publications have attracted more than 8,000 citations on Google Scholar.

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Image: Nirmalya Kumar
Photographs: Utcursch/Wikimedia Commons

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Indeed, very few management thinkers anywhere in the world even come close to matching his impeccable credentials.

In 2010, Speaking.com voted Kumar - who has taught at the Harvard Business School, IMD (Switzerland) and Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management) - among the top five marketing speakers worldwide; The Economic Times placed him 6th on the list of Global Indian

Thought Leaders; and The Economist referred to him as a “rising superstar” in its cover story “The New Masters of Management.” In 2011, the Thinkers50, which publishes what it calls the “definitive list of thinkers’”, put him at No 26.

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Image: Nirmalya Kumar's book India's Global Powerhouses.


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Can Nirmalya Kumar help Tatas tide over the tough times?

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His academic background has been equally sparkling. Kumar completed his BCom from Calcutta University, his MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a perfect 5.0 grade point average, and his PhD in marketing from Kellogg Graduate School of Management (winning the Marketing Science Institute's Alden G. Clayton Award for his PhD dissertation).

If you asked him what it takes, he would put it down to good old-fashioned hard work.

Looking at his CV, one would be hard-pressed to believe he was routinely hauled up in school for being at the bottom of the class, for wasting his time and for being bored with his tasks easily.

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Image: Nirmalya Kumar.


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His defining moment, he had told Business Standard in an earlier interview, was when one of his class XI teachers told him that he was actually a very smart cookie and would go far if only he put his mind to it.

To use a cliché, there was no looking back since then. On a holiday currently, Kumar didn’t answer a Business Standard email, but he surely knows the Tata assignment will be far from a cakewalk.

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Image: Nirmalya Kumar.
Photographs: Courtesy, London School of Business

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The group is going through a major transition, and many of its businesses are fighting to sail through the global slowdown, especially as its businesses are spread over 80 countries, several of which are in the grip of difficult times.

Hopefully, Kumar’s earlier experience will see him through. 

Besides being a prolific writer, Kumar has seven books on marketing and management to his credit that include <I>Marketing as Strategy </I>(2004), <I>Private Label Strategy </I>(2007), <I>Value Merchants </I>(2007), <I>India’s Global Powerhouses </I>(2009), <I>India Inside </I>(2012) and <I>Brand Breakout </I>(2013) and some oft-quoted articles such as "Have You Restructured for Global Success?" (with P Puranam; <I>Harvard Business Review</I>, 2011), "How Emerging Giants are Rewriting the Rules of M&A" (<I>Harvard Business Review</I>, 2009) and "Kill a Brand, Keep a Customer" (<I>Harvard Business Review</I>, 2003).


Image: Tata House.
Photographs: Courtesy, Tata Group.

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