TATA Corus Job Losses – is this the Indian way?

In my book I comment on how in the run up to their acquisition of Corus, the TATA’s faced an absolute grilling from several quarters regarding their ambitions for the steelmaker, which today has announced job lay-offs for 1,700 staff in Teeside. Naturally, the unions were worried about the intentions of a firm that they’d probably never heard of. Sensing their discomfort, the firm put in place a programme of briefings in which their iconic CEO – Ratan Tata actually went and met with groups of people, including Parliamentarians, from the regions that Corus employed people.

At one such briefing, he made the point, which was well taken, that Indian firms don’t have it in their DNA to be vultures or become asset strippers. He looked them in the eye and said that not only were they buying Corus for sound strategic reasons but that he assured them that Corus would create more jobs, as he intended to take the firm forward. Sadly, not even he had predicted the global downturn and the circumstances behind this decision need to be presented so that no one jumps to any other conclusion than that the TATA’s tried everything to minimise losses, such as:

  • My sources tell me that the decision has been pending for over 8 months, and that the number of losses is smaller than what could’ve been the case.
  • The long term strategic partners, who pulled out, will be taken to court for failing to stick to their original commitments.
  • And finally, that there’s been an ongoing dialogue about the situation with all stakeholders for some time, so this comes as no surprise.

My reason for writing this blog is not to defend TATA, but to highlight that I wrote my book as a result of realising that the western markets need to know more about Indian firms who are increasingly making acquisitions in Europe & America, as a result of their improved understanding of thes histories and cultures of such people and firms, I hope they’ll be better armed to combat the negative headlines that often lead the news agenda as a result of my book India Inc. How India’s Top Ten Entrepreneurs are Winning Globally.

Faith & Globalisation: Dear Tony…

Dear Tony,

I wanted to thank you for your kind invitation to the multi-faith breakfast meeting held this morning in London. I enjoyed exchanging ideas and hearing about perspectives that were new to me and my way of life.

Running a growing business communications firm in London, opportunities to view things from a faith perspective are few and far between. In actuality, it’s only when things start going wrong that we remember the big man (or woman). I would guess that if you asked, you’d find that a lot of people actually have religious views and believe in the middle path that you espouse, but its also a ‘truism’ that religion remains an intensely private affair for most of us. One where the mention of a ‘God’ makes us cringe with embarrasment.

That’s why my travels to other parts of this world are so fascinating. Take India for example, faith plays a central role for a huge number of people. From temples and mosques in the middle of busy road junctions, to spiritual blessings for every stage of human development, faith informs and determines behaviour and is a very open subject for everyone to observe – how so different to our experiences in Britain!

Your work on using faith (www.faithsacttogether.org) to eradicate global poverty and meet other millenium development goals (MDGs) is praise-worthy. Like you, I agree that if we were to focus our energies, I’m confident that illnesses like Malaria can be wiped off the face of our planet within our lifetimes. My own experience of leading a campaign on the MDGs that targeted the Hindu & Jain communities last summer, shows that despite a decline in attendance of churches and temples, religious identities still play a central role in our daily lives.

However, what I found of most interest was your Foundation’s work on faith & globalisation. Frankly speaking, I don’t think you’ll find many people objecting to your view that we need to inject the global financial services industry with and extra dose of morals and values. In my view, leadership from industry figures is at the heart of this debate. With media hype as it is in advance of the Treasury Select Committee’s face-off with the banking world this week, it’s important that the opportunity is provided for those in leadership positions to reflect on the need for values driven behaviour, at all levels in their organisations. A sensible suggestion was that each bank’s graduate recruitment programme, should encompass a module on ethics and values as part of their induction into these hallowed institutions. Only then, may we witness a shift in behaviour from the future leaders of these organisations.

Bringing the focus back to how religion is viewed as a private matter, later in the day I was invited for a meeting at the House of Lords, where I was reminded that we live in a Christian state in which the Archibishop of Canterbury and other senior Bishops sit in the House of Lords casting their eyes and commenting on Bills going through the second chamber.

It seems odd to me that at one hand we view religion as a private matter and on the other we’re ready to accept the undue and open influence of the Church on the laws of our country. At one time, I would have argued that the Bishops should be removed from the second chamber, but today, I argue the exact opposite – let’s have religious leaders from every faith in the Lords. After all, we both agree that diversity is a strength of this country, let’s follow this up by injecting a multi faith perspective to parliamentary debate which ultimately leads to the formulation of laws that provide the framework for our daily lives.

In summary, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to meet a wider group of people who share some of my values despite representing different faiths. With the challenging times we live in, I’m confident that some of the teachings handed down through our scriptures are not only relevant but can offer solutions and choices to resolve many of the issues we watch on our news channels on a daily basis.

Yours sincerely,

Vikas Pota

Jaguar / Land Rover & Tata

I’m writing this post in the context of hearing on the news that Lord Mandelson has placed a call, this morning, to  Bombay House, the Tata HQ in India.

I was speaking with a senior government figure, who’s involved in this matter, two evenings ago at a Whitehall pub in which he began enquiring as to what the Tatas would do if the UK Government refused to lend them the £1bn bailout they’ve requested for Jaguar / Land Rover.

To say that the Tatas have no other options would be misleading, as it wasn’t so long ago that the media reported that they had deep pockets and more importantly the intent on making the new venture a success. Let’s also not forget that within the Tata Group, there are a couple of companies which can only be described as ‘cash cows’, such as TCS, the IT firm from which they can divert resources to the benefit of Jaguar / Land Rover.

However, what I found interesting was his take on the cultural differences between the parent and child. He suggested that the Tata’s weren’t used to a culture where their plans would be stress tested and scrutinised as, in their opinion, their track record, trust, and their brand should prove to be enough of a guarantee for the UK taxpayer.

I disagree with the suggestion that the Tatas are naive and culturally backward. The Tata’s have been in the UK for more than a century and employ almost 50,000 people here in some of the most intensive and unloved sectors of the economy. As a result of their experiences here, they would understand the nervousness of the Government and therefore not take it as an affront to their heritage if certain questions were asked. After all, they understand that government money, ultimately is raised through taxation – our money.

With that comes responsibility. The Tata’s understand that, all too well.