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Consolidation and clearing telecom mess are top jobs for Ratan Tata

October 26, 2016 09:56 IST

Among the businesses that need consolidation are retail and defence

What next was the biggest question in Bombay House and outside the day after Cyrus Mistry was replaced as chairman of Tata Sons.

While it’s too early to draw up a road map, sources said finding an able successor, consolidation of group businesses, taking a call on the slow telecom business and settling some thorny issues were possibly topmost on Ratan Tata’s agenda after taking charge as interim chairman of the group.

The first meeting of the selection committee mandated with finding a replacement for Mistry is expected by November 10, a source said. Within the group, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) chief executive officer and managing director N Chandrasekaran seems to be a front runner for the group chairman’s role.

Chandrasekaran, who was on Tuesday inducted into the Tata Sons board, is currently in Australia and could only be present at the meeting between Tata and group CEOs through video-conferencing.

The thinking in the group is that TCS has at least three to four senior executives capable of taking charge in case Chandrasekaran, 53, is made chairman.

Other “stars” within the Tata group would be considered too, the source said. While hiring an outsider for the top job at Tata Sons has not been ruled out, an Indian will be preferred, it is learnt.

Despite the 70 years retirement criterion being kept in abeyance for Tata to take interim charge, a “young” professional (under the age of 60) is expected to be put on the job.

Among the businesses that need consolidation are retail and defence, people in the know said. Currently, the group has multiple companies across these sectors.

For retail, it has Trent, Croma, Tanishq and Tata CliQ; the defence business is handled through various group companies including Tata Advanced System, Tata Advanced Materials, Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division, TAL Manufacturing Solution, Tata Elxsi. Even in aviation, Tatas have two businesses, Vistara and Air Asia.

Besides consolidation, Tata is likely to take an "early and urgent" decision on the group's telecom business, Tata Teleservices, which has been a laggard for some years now.

Although it has not found a buyer so far, Tata may not like to run the business in losses for long, it is felt. In the recent telecom auctions, the company decided to spend Rs 4,500 crore to buy spectrum, primarily to keep its business going.

As part of the clean-up in telecom, quickly settling the ongoing legal tussle with NTT DoCoMo, Tata Teleservices' erstwhile Japanese partner, is also a priority.

Photograph: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

Nivedita Mookerji in New Delhi
Source: source image