HELLO! 100 Most Influential Natarajan Chandrasekaran© HelloIndia

HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Natarajan Chandrasekaran

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Suhel Seth

Why he matters: Although private to a fault, simply allowing his work to do all the talking, it’s in his hands that the House of Tata is rendered safe. Bred into the company culture since 1987—first as an intern and today as the Chairman of Tata Sons—he’s one of the finest professionals the world’s ever seen. Suhel Seth gives us rare insights into the man he says never stops!

Having had the privilege of working with some of the finest professionals in the world, I can unequivocally say that Natarajan Chandrasekaran is at the top of the heap. Absolutely right at the top. Straight as an arrow with no stomach for small talk and centred on focus and performance.

Having been involved with the House of Tata since 1990, I can also say that in Chandra’s hands, the group is safest and will grow unabashedly, without sacrificing the value architecture of this storied conglomerate. The fact that Chandra grew up in a family that prided itself on honesty and great intellectual achievement has made him what he is today.

The relationship he shares with Ratan Tata is equally worth mentioning. The respect and care he has for him is worthy not just of admiration, but is representative of the human qualities that Chandra has, which is critical when you’re at the helm of such a gargantuan business empire.

Chandra, who started out at TCS and then worked very closely with Subramaniam Ramadorai, the then CEO, was bred in the Tata culture, and this anchoring shaped the House of Tata under him today. What’s even more compelling is his attention to detail...

I still remember when plans to renovate and redesign Bombay House were being discussed. He understood the interplay between technology and heart in a manner that was unique. Here was a man who led India’s most successful IT company, showing exemplary care not just for people but equally for pets. He could have easily inaugurated the renovated Bombay House himself, but he left that honour to Mr. Tata.

The other facet of Chandra is his desire to work rather than be in the limelight. Shy to a fault and as private as one can be, Chandra has let his work do the talking all his life. A recipient of many global honours, he’s never either let them be known or let them come in his way. In an era when corporate titans have an army of executive assistants, Chandra has none. And what’s at times even more admirable (and scary) is his response time. Send Chandra a message, and chances are, you’ll receive a reply within minutes, no matter what time zone he’s in!

A personal anecdote: I don’t think even Chandra may remember this, but I still recall the day. Tuesday, January 10, 2017, when I was at Elphinstone House, working in the conference room. In walked Chandra at noon to meet Mr. Tata, where he was told by him that the Tata Sons Board was keen that Chandra take over as chairman of the group—by far one of the most valued corner offices in the world. The meeting lasted all of 30 minutes, and as he was leaving, I smiled at him (while I was on my way to Mr. Tata’s room). He remained unfazed. After my meeting with Mr. Tata, I called him on his mobile to congratulate him, and all he said in response was, “An honour... And a lot to do!”

Since that day in January 2017, I haven’t seen the man stop. There’s a reason why Chandra loves marathons...

Photo Courtesy: Narendra Bisht

To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!