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Book Review: Tata Log - KS Narayanan - The Sunday Indian
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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: Tata Log


The company one keeps
KS NARAYANAN | Issue Dated: February 24, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Tata log | Harish Bhat | Book reviews | Penguin publication's book | Cyrus Mistry | Ratan Tata |

Since 1868, when the founder and first chairman Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata established a private trading firm in Mumbai. it has not only grown and transformed into India’s premier industrial house but has also touched everyone’s life with salt to satellite television, steel to supercomputers to automobiles and what not. Not a day goes by when we are not touched by some or the other Tata product or services or news about them. The latest offering was the ascendency of Cyrus Mistry replacing Ratan Tata as chairman of Tata Group.

It is one industrial house in India that has been well chronicled beginning with RM Lala— the man who penned books such as The Creation Of Wealth: The Tatas From The 19th To 21st Century and Beyond The Last Blue Mountain: A Life Of J.R.D. Tata. Three years back, Morgen Witzel, a leading business historian authored a book Tata: The Evolution of a Corporate Brand. What differentiates Tata Log, written by Harish Bhat, managing director and CEO of Tata Global Beverages, from the previous works is that it attempts to portray how Tata companies have broken new ground and set new standards of excellence over the past two decades since the Indian economy was liberalised in 1991. Secondly by focussing on people who were involved in different projects closely and their dreams and dilemmas, crises and challenges, Bhat has captured the subaltern view of the post-liberalisation decades.

An old Tata hand, Bhat, who has been trying his hand at writing besides managing workers and business, has carefully chosen eight stories that reveal the Tata way of life. This lends a human touch to the Tata Group.

The book begins with the making of India’s first indigenously designed car, the Indica, followed by how Tata Chemicals in Mithapur is transforming the lives of a community in a far-flung, semi-arid corner of the country committed to social causes as diverse as raising the water table in a barren area to protecting the endangered whale shark. Equally interesting is the tale of Tanishq, and how Titan Industries is modernizing and transforming the huge jewellery industry in India.

The chapter on the tribulations of Tata Finance that brought out the worst and the best in the group is timely as Tata Capital is trying to emerge as a new player in the market.

Equally amazing is the story on Second Career Internship Programme, or SCIP, of the Tatas, which offers a second career to women who take a break to raise a family, and the building of the world’s fourth fastest and Asia’s fastest supercomputer-‘EKA’ by S Ramadorai and his team. These chapters peep into how Tata Group transformed itself and various communities and stakeholders around them.

Two stories - one on the first-ever acquisition of an iconic global brand by an Indian company - Tetley and the other about how Tata Steel became the first Indian organisation to win Japan’s prestigious Deming Prize for quality - have been showcased by the author to illustrate Tata’s arrival on the global scene more emphatically than ever before.

As a good storyteller, Bhat has taken care to pepper each of the chapters with interesting anecdotes. For instance he quotes Xerxes Desai, the man who founded Tanishq, to reveal that the name was actually inspired by a Harlequin Great Dane owned by him. The dog was called Monishqa.

In all these eight stories Bhat tell us that the Tata Way is all about 4Ps — pioneering, purposive, principled and perfect - and builds his case to exemplify these 4Ps.

If Bhat chooses to tell us how the group transformed after Indian economy began to walk on the path of liberalisation, he ought to have included the Nira Radia episode, the telecom scam, and the withdrawal of Nano project from West Bengal. But none of these finds a mention in Tata Log.
As the title suggests, Tata Log is at best a record keeping or about ‘Log’- people. Of course it is a question whether somebody like Bhat, who is a sensitive insider, would have dared to include these episodes. Also missing is the extraordinary response of the staff of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai during 26/11 attack.

Describing Bhat as a master storyteller, R Gopalakrishnan, in the foreward, refers to Berbers in Marrakech, Harikatha of Tamil Nadu, jatra performers of Bengal, bards and minstrels in Europe. He tells us how stories accumulate and become modern symbols of a social community. Gopalakrishnan also points out how Bhat has effectively deployed the principles of a hero’s departure, initiation and return that underpin ancient stories in order to narrate the story of a living company. No wonder Tata Log is an act of love for a timeless institution.

Author: Harish Bhat
Publication: Penguin
Edition: Hardcover  
ISBN: 978-0-670-08667-2
Pages:  200                
Price: Rs 599   

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Issue Dated: Apr 27, 2014