Anirudha Dutta is former head of research at CLSA India Limited, a leading foreign brokerage house. While every number tells a story, there are many stories beyond numbers and both are equally important. This blog will attempt to tell some of these stories.
Much has been written about Ratan Tata's legacy and achievements over the last few weeks as RNT, as he is popularly referred to within the Tata group, hung his boots and handed over the baton to Cyrus Mistry. In his typical understated manner, RNT spent his last day as chairman of the group in Pune, away from the limelight and not at Bombay House.
I want to mention three anecdotes when I have accidentally "encountered" RNT in Bombay House, which brings out a facet of his personality which is oft mentioned but probably deserves greater highlighting in today's world. The first was when I was in a meeting with Ishaat Hussain, then Director Finance of Tata Sons. I was interviewing him for a website then when his phone rang. RNT was at the other end and he asked IH if he (IH) could join him for lunch since some dignitaries from a foreign bank or World Bank were dropping by. IH told RNT that he would take 15 or 20 minutes since he was in a meeting and if that was ok and RNT said it was perfectly fine. The meeting that IH was in was with me and was nothing important from IHs perspective. IH didn't rush me even after that and I got all the answers that I wanted. I couldn't help wondering even then on how many professionals could have done the same thing in any other organization whether with a professional CEO or a representative of the promoter family. I suspect we all know the answer.
The second "encounter" was when I was sitting a few years later with Dr J J Irani or Doc I, as he was popularly referred to. If I remember correctly, this was just a week or two before Doc I retired as the MD of Tata Steel. During our conversation, RNT called up and asked if Doc I could come up to his office. The Tata Steel office was on the 3rd floor and the chairman's office was (and is) on the 4th floor. Doc I told RNT that he was in a meeting and would come up in 5-10 minutes. After I finished my interview and walked out to meet a few friends in Tata Steel, I saw RNT walking in and entering Doc I's office. How many CEOs or promoters would do that?
My third and last "encounter" was in October 2012. I had a meeting in Bombay House and as I stepped out of my car, just a few steps ahead of me was RNT. I stopped for a second hoping that he would walk ahead of me through the metal detector and I would follow. RNT stopped to have a word with his driver or his co-passenger and I walked ahead of him through the metal detector. In most, if not all other offices, the security would have stopped me and waited for the boss to go ahead. But not in Bombay House. As I walked in the dogs adopted by Bombay House were all there in the lobby to greet RNT.
In today's world of bloated and fragile egos, RNT stands as an exception. His humility which sits naturally on him is unsung but there is a lesson in it somewhere for all of us. In a country where we are constantly reminded by the rich and powerful of "You don't know who I am", RNT is an exception. We need to celebrate this more as the alternate rather than just writing about billlion dollar mansions, Page 3 glorifications of larger and larger parties and hiring of Versailles Palace to celebrate marriages of sons and daughters. The other story is actually far more powerful, relevant and interesting. What do you say?