Saturday, November 2, 2019

Worth pondering upon.

Wonder why in a country like ours, loans become bad?

Today, there is deep introspection and debate around redefining the purpose of a company. The pendulum is swinging (back) towards the idea that big business should not just serve shareholders; it also has obligations and a duty of care to employees, to customers, to communities and the environment in which we all operate. In other words, a move away from 'shareholder capitalism' and towards something closer to 'stakeholder capitalism'. For those familiar with the history of industrialism going back to the late nineteenth century, this renewed focus on inclusion may elicit a sense of deja vu. It certainly does at the Tata Group. Our founder, Jamshetji Tata, firmly believed that the community is not just another stakeholder in business, but is in fact the very purpose of the existence of any free enterprise.

His conviction was so strong that it is written into our unique corporate structure : two-thirds of the shares in the group holding company are held by the Tata Trusts, the dividends of which are applied to a range of research, interventions and institutions spanning rural development and livelihoods to health, science and sports. The home of Tata's first manufacturing hubs pioneered employee housing, medical care and education back in the early 1900s. This created a tremendous repository of trust - and this trust of the people and the nation is the measure we have strived to live up to.

Here is one of my favourite stories. KraussMaffei, the large German engineering conglomerate, shared with our executives this surprising story of what the Tata word meant and the Tata brand stood for.

In 1946, soon after World War II, the KraussMaffei board met JRD Tata (Chairman of the Tata group) on the platform of the bombed-out Munich station. India was under British rule, and German and Indian companies could not make any legal agreements among themselves. The Germans requested Tatas to take their best technicians and their families to India, who were starving without work in Germany. They will teach you all they know; please take care of them, is all we can ask, they said. And thus, Tatas learnt metal-working from the best of the best.

Many years later, they said, when India had gained independence from the British, a letter arrived at their headquarters from Tatas. Now that we can, how much shall we pay you for the technology you have provided us, it asked. That letter, they said, is a legend in our company of what trust means. You honour your debt, even when it is not legally binding and even when it is not demanded of you.

Trust is not built through legal contracts between parties. It is built by a desire to do right by the others. With well over a century of experience under our belts, the Tata Group isn't simply proud of this legacy - we are determined to carry it forward in the 21st century.

Note : A nice piece from Chairman of the Tata Group, Mr. N Chandrasekharan!


Lekha had got up at a half past 5 to be ready to receive the Rajah Medical team to collect her blood and urine samples for the quarterly tests, the results of which we shall carry along with us while we meet up with her doctor, Padmanabha Shenoy, next week. The pathology team which was supposed to reach us by 7, had pressed the doorbell a half an hour earlier. To my query as to why they had fetched up early, the comely sisters - there were two of them - replied in chorus, with a smile, "We know that you'd be ready well before time, sir and we have a lot many patients to attend to". Sensing their requirement, we didn't say anything further and they quickly got down to work. Finding Lekha's vein wasn't a problem for the expert sister but the receptacle with the urine had slipped out of Lekha's hand and the sample could not be handed over to the team! Half an hour later, I had to hand it over to the path lab hurtling up and down in Hamid's autorickshaw.

Lekha had gone to the Guruvayur temple as part of her weekly tryst and to buy grocery from the department store, near it. It was Hamid, yet again, who was her sa'arthi!

The results were brought in by about a half past 11 and the various readings were within parameters. And that's a good start! 

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