The TAS rejuvenates itself…

… If not wholly, then quite substantially!

In our time, the TAS was seen as the elite within the Tata Group.  They formed a cadre that worked across the group, and were generally seen as future leaders of India’s top business conglomerate.   However, over a period of time the importance of the TAS has probably diminished.  At the IITs and IIMs, the TAS is no longer seen as the top job.  Meanwhile, many of the individual Tata Group companies are now large and strong enough to attract outstanding talent by themselves.

So why have the TAS?  I speculate, but the TAS still has several advantages:

1. Not all Tata companies are able to get the right talent, and the TAS does fill that need to some extent.  Especially in old-economy companies which really struggle to attract and retain fresh talent

2. TAS managers work across companies and industries – and are able to bring in best practices and ideas from across the group

3. Since they may owe some loyalty to the holding company, I would imagine that the TAS also drives the Chairman’s vision and agenda to some extent

It seems that the third point is at play in the ongoing restructuring of the TAS.  This article in today’s ET points out several of the changes being made.  The training period now includes a rural stint as well as international assignments.

On the rural posting:

“TAS was conceived as an elite service of young managers. But this rural exercise shows them the reality that exists in their own backyard which they have never experienced,” says R Gopalakrishnan, executive director, Tata Sons. “If we believe that a large part of our population actually lives in rural areas, we want to build leaders who are relevant to this country and to its future,” adds Satish Pradhan, executive vice-president, group HR, Tata Sons.

And then:

After two months in the villages, the 35 recruits in the 2009 TAS batch were dispatched to many corners of the globe. The next couple of months were spent on projects in the operations of group companies such as Tata Beverages or Tata Communications in countries like South Africa and UK. This ‘village-and-the-world-in-120-days’ break-in drill is a recent introduction to the 53-year-old programme and part of an attempt to reinvent itself to meet the group’s new talent requirements.

The Tata group is clearly orienting itself for two of their stated strategic thrusts:

1. The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, and in the villages (Tata Nano, Swach etc)

2. Going global (Jaguar, Corus etc)

And what better to do this than to immerse young recruits in both environments, right at the start of their careers.  Importantly, they are now looking to recruit international staff into the TAS – thereby breaking the India-centric mentality that would otherwise dominate.

How many other  companies are able to use their recruitment and training programmes to drive a strategic agenda like this?

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