Indra Nooyi, N Chandrasekaran Among Top Contenders For Tata Chairmanship


Mumbai: Industry insiders are betting on half a dozen senior personalities to fill in for Cyrus Mistry, the outgoing chairman of the Tata Group.

Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Arun Sarin, former Vodafone CEO, NoelBSE 0.00 % Tata of Tata International, N Chandrasekaran, TCSBSE -0.94 % CEO, Ishaat Hussain and B. Muthuraman both from Tata Group could be the contenders to replace Cyrus Mistry as the group’s new chairman, say experts.

Ratan Tata is the interim chairman for the group who would step aside once the new chairman is selected.

Amit Chandra, who heads Bain Capital in India, and also a member of the search committee formed by Tata Sons to select the next chairman, could also be a long shot candidate for the post.

You need someone with integrity to head Tata Group, while it is still too early, to speculate, I think the process would begin within next two weeks,” a consultant working with the group said. According to the people ET spoke to, including executives in the group, head hunters, consultants, and people close to Tata Group, there are already some names floating to replace Mistry.

“I think the group will first form a committee and it could take anywhere around three to four months to come up with a name. While some names are already floating, I don’t think Noel Tata and Arun Sarin could become chairman even this time around,” a person who was close to the selection committee that selected Mistry four years ago said.

However, a senior executive believed to be close to Tata Group and specifically Ratan Tata told ET that there are two people who could potentially.

Noel is considered too soft and that’s the problem some senior executives in Tata Group have with him. As for Sarin, I think Tata Group has lost the plot for telecom, I don’t see a person with that (telecom) expertise heading the group,” added the person close to the selection committee.

There are some sceptics to the nomination process as well. “Last time, despite the exhaustive exercise, the largest shareholder just nominated the chairman. This time around, the committee is likely to dip into the same pool of people it had considered last time with a couple of new names such as Amit Chandra who was brought on board as a non-executive director in August this year,” said another head hunter.

Industry experts say that the group will now be looking at is someone who understands the old economy sectors well and will add value to the group’s existing businesses that are suffering. “A banker is unlikely to be appointed as the focus is now on expanding the Tata brand and business and not consolidation as under Cyrus Mistry,” the head hunter said.

Meanwhile there are also speculations in the industry circles as to why Mistry was replaced as Tata Group Chairman.

“Cyrus has not done much in three years and he has no eye for talent. The people he has hired are not inspirational leaders but just individuals,” said a senior official in one of the Tata Group companies.