Man of Steel: Jamshed J Irani3 min read
His 43 years of service has been a major influence on building the colossal company that Tata Steel is today. Dr. Jamshed J Irani took over the company as its Managing Director in 1992 and after a decade long leadership moved to its board of directors. His association with the Tata Group came to an end, last year when the 75 year old Padma Bhushan recipient decided to hang up his boots.
The steel and metals industry veteran who is credited for turning around Tata Steel was also awarded the Honorary Knighthood, KBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997. Currently the Chairman of Kansai Nerolac Paints Ltd., Dr. Irani was the Guest of Honour at the 26th Annual Convocation ceremony of T A Pai Management Institute (TAPMI). Here are some excerpts of an exclusive interview with TMJ:
Russi Modi was not a technocrat unlike you. What were the challenges you faced after succeeding him as MD of Tata Steel?
When Russi Modi was there as a Managing Director, I was positioned as the Deputy Managing Director, and looked after everything. So it wasn’t something new or different as I had faced it before. Moreover, Mr. Modi was a great leader and we were and are good friends. Except in the last year of his term when there were some issues regarding his retirement. Apart from that there has never been any problem with him and I always thought of him as a very good mate.
How did the industry react to Early Separation Scheme (ESS) brought about by Tata Steel under your leadership considering it was the first initiative of its kind in the country?
It was a tremendous success; we were very fair to the people. It was not open to everybody; we selected the employees, whom we thought were not contributing to the company as good as others. So, it was not a voluntary retirement scheme where everyone could apply. While taking the decision we were very generous also, in simple terms because the employees were paid their existing salaries, till the time they would have normally retired. Moreover, they were also allowed to work in any organization they wanted to work in.
Did the ESS affect the workforce or the image of the company in any way?
No, because we reduced the number of people gradually over a time period of ten years. The workforce reduced from almost 80000 to a figure less than 40000. Besides, not just our employees but our administration was also content because there were fewer individuals to look after. Also, there were no protests regarding the issue.
Was it a strong foundation or a strong leadership that prompted Tata Steel to take over a company like Corus which is three times its size?
It is not a unique example, because there are other examples also of small companies taking over big ones. However, it has not worked out to be pretty well because of the timing. Tata Motors taking over Jaguar and Land Rover was a great success story. Unfortunately Tata Steel’s takeover is not much of a success story but hopefully in the future it would become so.
What are your views on the change of guard from Ratan Tata to Cyrus Mistry?
I think we have elected a good young man. It would be interesting to see how the group evolves under his leadership.