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Serving Society Through Science
R Mukundan, Managing Director, Tata Chemicals Ltd. TCL's core ability to convert commodities into brands and establishing long lasting relations with stakeholders were the crucial growth drivers in the recent past. The company is based on a strong platform for next decade of horizontal and vertical growth across its businesses.

May we have your comment on the growth of your organisation during the past decade?
Last decade had been most eventful in the history of Tata Chemicals Limited. It embarked on its expansion and internationalisation journey. Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL) is currently the second largest producer of soda ash in the world with manufacturing facilities in India, UK, Kenya and US. It is India’s leading Crop Nutrients Player with its own manufacturing of urea and phosphatic fertilisers and a leading player in crop protection business through its subsidiary Rallis. TCL is the pioneer and India’s market leader in the branded, iodised salt segment and Tata Salt has been recognised as India’s No.1 Food Brand for more than five years.

In the last decade, TCL has undertaken several key steps to leverage its expertise in sciences to develop more sustainable products. It has set up the TCL Innovation Centre in Pune to develop world-class R&D capability in the emerging areas of nanotechnology and biotechnology. TCL has also invested in a Centre for Agriculture & Technology (CAT) at Aligarh to provide advice on farming practices in general and crop nutrition practices and solutions in particular. The company has also entered into a JV with Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory Ltd (TLL), Singapore for development of jatropha seedlings and agronomic package of practices.

In November 2010, TCL inaugu-rated its first customised fertiliser plant at Babrala UP. In December 2010, Rallis India Limited, TCL Subsidiary, acquired majority stake in Metahelix Lifesciences announcing its foray into seeds segment under Farm Essential Business. TCL also entered into a definitive agreement to buy 100 percent stake in British Salt, UK securing critical raw material for its UK Operations. In December 2010, TCL Living Essential business forayed into Branded National Pulses segment by launching i-shakti Dals. Currently, TCL is based on a strong platform for next decade of horizontal and vertical growth across its businesses.

How is the company positioned in the global as well as Indian markets?
TCL is having a healthy balance of global and regional businesses. In the Industry Essentials segment - Soda Ash business, TCL is leader in several regions and is world’s 2nd largest producer of soda ash. Its flagship brand Tata Salt is an undisputed leader in branded salt segment followed by i-shakti Salt in India under Living Essential segment. In the Farm Essential segment, Tata Paras is a leading brand in its core command areas in Northern and Eastern India. TCL has manufacturing facilities across 4 continents and markets across the world.

What were the growth drivers that propelled the company to secure its current market position?
TCL’s core ability to convert commodities into brands and establishing long lasting relations with stakeholders were the crucial growth drivers in recent past. Apart from this, constant monitoring of opportunities available across the world and an agile leadership team working on capturing the opportunities has played significant role in TCL growth story. Going forward, TCL mission of ‘Serving Society Through Science’ will be the guiding force for all the initiatives and our growth path.

As the leader of your organisation, what business habits did you follow during the past decade to lead the company's growth? In the past decade, TCL has seen some of the finest leaders industry has produced. Each one with their unique leadership styles have contributed significantly to TCL’s growth and culture building. The silent contributor to TCL’s growth, in the last decade had been Tata group’s core values and systems which every one of us at TCL follows religiously. To live and institutionalise the value system of the organisation is always beneficial for the people and the organisation. It defines the ethos of the organisation and works as a natural hedge against any sort of risks.

What were the issues and challenges faced by your organisation in the past, how did you address them and how do you see them change during the next ten years?
Challenges and opportunities are part of every business scenario. The differentiating quality in addressing challenges is the team performance. The key elements are around how the team identifies these challenges proactively and develops response mechanism to mitigate them. Ability of TCL leadership team in identifying and responding to such challenges has played a vital role in TCL’s growth & sustenance. In my view, two major developments are changing the way of conducting business. A) The pace of changes happening around us has increased significantly and B) The timing of these changes has become unpredictable. Thus, only one thing which an organisation can bank on is Talent of its employees and prepares them for these fast and unpredictable changes. Building Agile and Capable teams is our focus to create the opportunities, seize the opportunities wherever available and mitigate any challenges / risks.

What role in your opinion has technology played in the past to consolidate your market position and how important is technology up-gradation from management perspective to steer the growth of company in the current and future business scenarios?
Today, Innovation & inclusivity is the back bone for any organisation to optimise any organisational processes and related cost. Tata Swach a low cost water purifier introduced in 2009 is an encouraging example of breakthrough technology and innovation and how it can benefit masses (inclusiveness). We constantly focus on upgrading technology in all our processes and introducing newer technologies where ever required.
As far as technology is concerned, it is very important to ensure, that it is employee, environment and customer friendly and we at TCL, focus on these aspects before adopting any new technology. Keeping technology and innovation in mind, in 2004, TCL set up an Innovation Centre at Pune which works on nano and bio technology space.

Which key areas in your opinion are poised for strong growth in the next decade?
Areas of impact include Food, Energy, and Water. In our view with a strong presence in Agri inputs we could work on all these issues. Our entry into seeds, crop nutrients and crop protection play a key role in this regard. We are also investing in energy crops both for bio-ethanol and bio-diesel. Water is an area of high engagement for us and we do see a role of ourselves in water related to agriculture.

Where do you see your company in 2020?
We see ourselves as a company which continues to play a leading role in segments we choose to operate for its Living Essentials, Industry Essentials and Farm essentials. For us the key differentiator in future will be innovation and participation in more markets with inclusivity as an agenda. We would like to see TCL amongst the leading chemical companies in the world with a focus on sustainability.