Natarajan Chandrasekaran (‘Chandra’) is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a leading global IT solution and consulting firm, a position he has held since 2009.
Chandra has been appointed as a Director on the board of Tata Sons since October 25, 2016. He was also appointed as a Director on the board of India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India in 2016.
Under his leadership, TCS has generated consolidated revenues of US $16.5 billion in 2015-16. With over 371,000 consultants, TCS has become the largest private sector employers in India with the highest retention rate in a globally competitive industry. TCS remains the most valuable company in India ended 2015-16 with a market capitalization of over US $70 billion. Under Chandra’s leadership, TCS was rated as the world’s most powerful brand in IT Services in 2015 and recognized as a Global Top Employer by the Top Employers Institute across 24 countries.
Chandra personifies TCS’ commitment to a culture of customer centricity, its reputation for long-term customer partnerships and its focus on innovation. A technopreneur known for his ability to make big bets on new technology, Chandra has been driving TCS’ strong positioning in the emerging Digital Economy with a suite of innovative Digital products and platforms for enterprises, some of which have since scaled into sizeable new businesses.
He has served as the Chairperson of the IT Industry Governors’ at the WEF, Davos in 2015-16. Chandra has been playing an active role in the Indo – US and India-UK CEO Forums. He is also part of India’s business taskforces for Australia, Brazil, Canada,
China, Japan and Malaysia. He served as the chairman of NASSCOM, the apex trade body for IT services firms in India in 2012-13 and continues to be a member of its governing Executive Council.
Under his guidance, the company has refined its corporate sustainability program to focus on education, environment and wellness. TCS is deeply involved with STEM education initiatives in USA, UK and Australia. Through his active support of major marathons in New York, Chicago, Amsterdam, Mumbai and Bangalore, he has helped spread a message of health awareness across the firm’s employees globally as well as in the communities it operates in.
Chandra has received several awards and recognition in the business community. Recently he was awarded “Business Leader award” at the ET Awards for Corporate Excellence 2016. He also awarded Qimpro Platinum Standard Award 2015 (Business) and Business Today’s Best CEO 2015 (IT & ITEs). He was voted the ‘Best CEO’ for the fifth consecutive year by the Institutional Investor’s 2015 Annual All-Asia Executive Team rankings. During 2014 was voted as one of CNBC TV 18 – ‘Indian Business Icons’. He was also awarded CNN- IBN Indian of the Year 2014 in business category. Chandra was presented with the “Best CEO for 2014” by Business Today for the second consecutive year. He has also received the Medal of the City of Amsterdam – Frans Banninck Coqc – in recognition of his endeavor to promote trade and economic relations between Amsterdam and India.
Chandra was conferred with the honorary doctorate by JNTU, Hyderabad, India (2014). He has received Honorary Doctorate from Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Netherland’s top private business school (2013). Chandra has also been conferred honorary degrees by many Indian universities such as the Gitam University, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh (2013), KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha (2012); and the SRM University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (2010).
Chandra joined the company in 1987 after completing Masters in Computer Applications from Regional Engineering College, Trichy, Tamil Nadu.
Beyond the office, Chandra is an avid photographer, and a passionate long-distance runner who has completed several marathons around the world including Amsterdam, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, Mumbai, New York, Prague, Stockholm, Salzburg and Tokyo.
Born in 1963, Chandra lives in Mumbai, with his wife Lalitha and son Pranav.
India’s corporate history would have taken a different course if a principal of the Coimbatore Institute of Technology in the 1980s had let one of his students have his way.
Sometime in 1983, N Chandrasekaran, now Tata Sons chairman-designate, approached principal M Gurusamy to discuss his higher studies after completing his BSc in applied science. “He told me that he was seriously considering agriculture,” recalls Gurusamy.
Chandra’s family had vast stretches of agricultural land in Mohanur village, in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal district, where they grew plantain. Computer application was in its nascent stages but when Gurusamy explained its strengths, it caught the imagination of Chandra. When Chandra’s father, S Natarajan, endorsed the principal’s choice, the student had nothing more to consider. “He took up the subject and did extremely well to qualify for the MCA at Regional Engineering College (REC), Trichy,” says Gurusamy.
Chandra’s was in the first MCA batch in REC, now the National Institute of Technology — Trichy (NIT-T). Chandra also considered chartered accountancy, but finally settled for MCA.
Chandra’s father remained his motivation. “We discussed and decided on MCA,” says the 84-year-old, who returned to agriculture after practising law. “It was his sheer hard work and adherence to values that made him what he is today,” says the father, who lives with his daughter in a guesthouse in Erode. Natarajan learned of Chandra’s appointment on the television on Thursday evening and texted him. “He called me immediately. I told him that he has got his due,” says the proud father.
Chandrasekaran’s beginnings were humble. From a tiny tiled-roof house, he would walk a couple of kilometres to the government school. The medium of instruction was Tamil, but Chandra was quick to pick up English at college.
He was hard-working right from his childhood,” says G Ajeethan, a cousin. It was this quality that helped him move up the corporate ladder to become TCS chief executive officer and managing director in 2009.
Though he heads such a large company, he is unassuming, says his schoolmate P Narendran, now an LIC agent in Mohanur. He remembers Chandra also as a good leg-spinner. “He was two years older than me, but never dominating. We had so much fun playing cricket together. He was the captain and I the vice-captain of the team,” he says.
K S Natarajan, who taught Chandra in Class VII, says he was good at science. “He spent a lot of time clarifying his juniors’ doubts,” he says. S Annalakshmi, who taught him in Class VI, remembers Chandra as an obedient and respectful student Natarajan Chandrasekaran’s phenomenal three-decade journey from an intern at TCS, to the head of the company, and now as Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the $103-billion Group, in a way represents the tenacity of pursuing his passion of distance-running.
The 54-year-old marathoner joined TCS — then one among several Group companies — in 1987 straight out after completing a Master’s in Computer Applications from the Trichy Regional Engineering College in Tamil Nadu and rose through the ranks to become its Managing Director and Chief Executive in 2009, and is now serving his second 5-year term. The intervening period of over two decades saw the country’s emergence as an IT superpower, TCS dislodging rivals to become the numero uno company in the sector and also become the Tata Group’s crown jewel as other businesses like steel and auto suffered.
The results seem to have paid-off for Chandra, as he is popularly known. He is the first non-shareholder and a truly non-family person to chair the group, and seems to have piped others including Ratan Tata’s stepbrother Noel Tata, group company JLR’ Ralph Speth, PepsiCo’s Indira Nooyi, ex-Vodafone global chief Arun Sarin among others. His big moment in the group can arguably be becoming executive assistant to then MD and CEO S Ramadorai, and being groomed to becoming the company head on the boss’ retirement. Chandra navigated the company through a lot of ups and downs and dislodging bellwether Infosys and to become the largest company by mcap with of close to Rs 5 trillion, and the largest profit centre for the group. As the head of the Tata Group, he inherits a slew of problems across diverse sectors for which the conglomerate is in the news since October 24 last year when it removed Cyrus Mistry as the Chairman.Experience gained in steering TCS, which delivers over 80 per cent of the Group’s profits as also other positives like the potential of JLR will be of help for him.Being a group man will also help as he is deeply rooted in the ethos of the century—old group, unlike Mistry who had come to the group from outside.It can be noted that along with JLR’s Ralph Speth, Chandra was appointed to the board of Tata Sons on October 25.Since then, he has been a regular at the group HQs Bombay House and has been often seen with Ratan Tata.