In an interview I conducted for my forthcoming book on Indian entrepreneurs going global. I asked Mr Ramadorai, when he was the CEO of India’s largest IT firm – TCS, as to who he thought would succeed him, what became quite clear from his and those I asked this question to, was that a pattern was emerging within the boardrooms of Indian companies.
Two issues emerge – (a) whether in their succession planning, they’d consider external candidates and (b) whether they’d consider non-Indian candidates.
On the first issue, it seems clear to me that Indian firms prefer recruiting for top jobs from within their organisation. In the TCS example, Ramadorai’s successor – Chandra has long been seen as the heir apparant. In other similar situations, take Infosys as another example where the baton has been passed from Murthy, Nilekani and now to Krish Gopalakrishnan.
With respects to having a non-Indian at the helm, there aren’t many examples but the two obvious ones that come to mind concern Brian Tempest’s appointment at Ranbaxy, where after a brief stint, he was shifted by Malvinder Singh to a more supportive role, and the other being Alan Rosling, who Ratan Tata appointed to coordinate strategy at Bombay House, the TATA HQ in India. I recollect the look of horror on other industry veterans, when Rosling was appointed and had to represent TATA in global industry platforms.
The other notable example is that of Suzlon, which made the conscious decision to move their HQ to Europe and in tandem appointed a non-Indian as CEO, who has recently moved on, one suspects due to the move back to India for their global HQ.
India has a long way to go in its journey to become a economic super-power, and I believe that a healthy debate has begun in the boardrooms of these companies on issues such as this. In my view, I don’t think we’re too far off from seeing an external, non-Indian heading up a major Indian conglomerate.
Gazing into my crystal ball – I reckon the mother of all succession headaches surrounds Ratan Tata. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tata Sons opted for a (a) external person (b) of non-Indian origin (despite the prominence provided to Naval Tata as heir apparant as a result of his surname), after Ratan Tata.
Watch this space…