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The steel industry globally, particularly in India, is facing frequent blows from external factors such as lower prices, increased Chinese imports, increasingly difficult land acquisition etc. A Tata Steel lifer recently took on the mantle of the century old steel power of India to push ahead with ambitious growth plans. T.V Narendran's close to three decades of in-company experience is spread across a wide range of areas like marketing and sales, international trade, supply chain and planning, and operation and general management in India and overseas in various ranks.

An inclusive and collaborative leader, Narendran was at the helm of it's Indian and South East Asian operations before taking charge as the first Global CEO and MD of the 110 years old Tata Steels recently. The man of steel steers the company towards its vision to be the world steel industry benchmark in “Value Creation” and “Corporate Citizenship”. As new challenges pops up, Narendran's strategy is to make the business more resilient to fluctuating business circumstances.

The stepping stone...

Straight out of business school, Narendran joined Tata Steel in 1988 and worked in the International Trading Division till 1997. He has spent five years in Dubai taking care of Tata Steels' exports to the Middle East. On returning to India, he moved from international trade to marketing and sales division working closely to develop market for the cold rolling mill project, supply chain management, sales planning etc. It was when steel started to be looked upon as a brand that needed development in 2001 that he was promoted to be the Chief of Marketing & Sales (Long Products). He was instrumental in building the 'Tata Tiscon' brand and it's distribution network.

The journey with NatSteel...

Narendran served as the Principal Executive Officer of B. Muthuraman, the then Managing Director of Tata Steel from 2003 to 2005. He was actively involved when Tata Steel acquired a Singapore based steel company, NatSteel, in 2005, which was also the first overseas acquisition of the company. Post acquisition, he was appointed as the Executive Vice President in 2005 and then as the Deputy President (Operations) before taking over as the President and CEO of NatSteel on January 1, 2008. NatSteel was operated through a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Steel called Natsteel Asia Pte Ltd. He played a vital role in the operational integration and financial turnaround of Tata Steel and NatSteel Asia group companies.

During his reign at NatSteel, he earned his strides in the steel industry and rose to be an inevitable presence in the Asian steel market. He served as the director on the Board of South East Asia Iron & Steel Institute (SEAISI), as the President of the ASEAN Iron & Steel Federation (AISIF) and was also the Vice Chairman of the CII (India Business Forum) in Singapore.

NatSteel was a great learning experience for Narendran. The lessons he learned there while encoutering the unexpected challenges equipped him to handle difficult situations he faced later as the MD of Tata Steels. Just six months into his new position, the company had to face the ripples of Lehman Brothers crash. Great planning and proactive decisions helped him to anchor the company in its tough times.

With his international exposure and hands-on experience in products and marketing functions, he moved back to Tata Steels as its Vice President - Safety & Flat Products Divisions in 2010 after making NatSteel a much more efficient and profitable unit.

At the helm...

At 48, Narendran was one of the youngest to take over the reins at Tata Steel when he was appointed as the Managing Director of Tata Steel for India and South East Asia on November 1, 2013. Immediately after his appointment, the iron ore mines across India was shut down due to a change in the industry regulation. A crunch in the raw materials was never part of the plan when the first industrial city was founded based on the high traces of iron ore in Jamshedpur. Inspite of having many unfavourable circumstances, the company weathered the storm by importing the raw material from Australia and continued to run the steel plant at almost full capacity. With great teamwork and proactive leadership, the operation went on even when the mines remained closed til August 2015 and created records in the history of the company.

More challenging times...

Execution and commission of one of the largest greenfield projects in India - Kalinganagar steel plant in Odisha was one of the great achievements of Narendran. The project which was initially announced to begin in 2005 faced many roadblocks. When a police firing over land acquisition took lives, it was just the beginning of many obstacles, putting the project on hold indefinitely. At a time when the management started losing hopes of taking off the project ever, Narendran stepped in.

Building hospitals and schools established the Tata brand equity among the local community. The project made progress when Narendran won their hearts. He constantly met the stakeholders, reviewed the project and ensured that everybody had access to him. The project was dedicated to Odisha in 2015 before starting the commercial production in May 2016. The plant capacity also was boosted enabling the delivery to higher value segments like steel for automobiles taking production capacity in India to about 13 million metric tons. The three million tonne plant started running in its full capacity with a very short span of time. To address the global downturn in steel industry, it ramped up the Jamshedpur plant and developed new market segments. The proactive decisions of Narendran and his team helped the steel giant to retain the leadership position in the domestic market even in odd times.

In the year ending March 2017, the operations at Jamshedpur registered the highest ever sales volumes in the history of the company. The company finds it a good time now to make investments and expand further. On 31 October 2017, the Indian head was appointed as the global CEO and MD of Tata Steel that will now include Europe as well. Currently, he is also a member of Board of directors of Tata Steel Special Economic Zone Limited, Indian Iron and Steel Sector Skill Council, Tata Steel Foundation and Jamshedpur Football And Sporting Private Limited.

Personal life...

T.V. Narendran is a Mechanical Engineer from Regional Engineering College (now NIT), Trichy and pursued his MBA from IIM Calcutta. In an event at IIM, he has shared that until he got into the institute, the single biggest failure was not getting into an IIT. He is also a Chevening Scholar and has attended the Advanced Management Programme in CEDEP - INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France.

An avid runner and fitness enthusiast, he runs 8km/hour three days a week and has run 10km in the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K marathon for the last two years. Running time couples up as his thinking time too along with work out. He also likes to read on current affairs and history, listen to music and spend time with the family. When the work pressure gets too much, he shuts the windows and doors and play drums.

He is married to Ruchi Narendran, a social worker and has a daughter.

Associations and memberships...

Fellow of The Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE)
Chairman of Tata Steel Thailand and NatSteel
Member of the Board of World Steel Association
Chairman of the Economics Committee of the World Steel Association
Co-chair of the Mining and Metals Governors Council of the World Economic Forum and the India Myanmar Joint Trade & Investment Forum
Member of the National Council of CII and Indo-French CEO council
Member from Indian side in BRICS Business Council
Chairman of Board of Governors of XLRI

Awards and accolades...

Received Distinguished Alumnus Award from NIT Trichy and IIM Calcutta


Your ability to pick yourself up and respond to the failure will eventually determine if you are successful or happy in life.
Pursue your passions, pursue what interests you. When in college, so many of us were into theatre, arts, painting. Pursue these hobbies and keep in touch with them. They help you cope with the mundaneness of stuff.
Every role had its own set of challenges, and it’s up to me to make the most out of that. I can sit back and complain, or I can use each of these opportunities as a great learning experience and ultimately become stronger.
There will be many things which will go wrong, not to be pessimistic or negative, but brace yourself for some unpleasant surprises.

Hope readers caught up the spark …