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  • MAP Asia Pacific Ltd

Organisations, like marathon runners, can't perform if not fit: N Chandrasekaran

Fitness comes first, performance comes next, be that in running a marathon or running a business, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran said on Thursday at an event in Mumbai, urging companies to look at the left side of the balance sheet before looking to the right which is the profit & loss statement.

"An organisation has to be fit in multiple dimensions. I always say look at the left side of the accounting statement before looking at the right side or the P&L. If you don't have the structures in places, the team in place, it doesn't work. You can get away by having some short-term performance, but it won't be consistent," he said at the Ascent Conclave 2022 themed 'Thriving on Change'.

The lifelong Tata employee, Chandra, as he is popularly known, rose from being an intern at TCS in 1987 to become the software services exporter’s youngest CEO in 2009 and eventually the Chairman of the more than 150-year-old salt-to-software conglomerate in 2017 after the unceremonious ouster of the now-late Cyrus Mistry.

The Padma Shree awardee has been reappointed as Tata Sons Chairman for another five years in February this year as the conglomerate continues its efforts on its e-commerce super app Tata Neu, and the transformation of Air India, the ailing national carrier which it recently acquired.

Speaking at a keynote session titled 'Leading Through Disruption', he continued that he truly believes every business is a cash-flow business. "If you don't have sight of cash flow at some point in time, it's over. It's important to walk up the P&L as much as you walk down the P&L. Many times, people start with the revenue."

Apart from chairing the board of Tata Sons, which is the holding company and promoter of more than 100 Tata operating companies with aggregate annual revenues of more than US $100 billion, Chandra also chairs the boards of several group operating companies, including Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Power, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

He also spoke about the importance of running your own race by putting it into the right context and not get distracted by how fast others were running.

"It's easy to get carried away in the first few kilometres by looking at people running faster, and your heart rate goes for a toss, your rhythm goes for a toss. Often marathoners will tell you they missed their time because they went very fast," he said. He added also that companies need to know their balance sheet and their real strength and capability to set the pace of the race they want to run.


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