Brand spin doctor

Mukund Rajan in his latest book, ‘The Brand Custodian: My Years with the Tatas’, has taken many liberties in recounting his years in the House of Tata. According to reliable internal sources, he was never Ratan Tata’s blue-eyed boy but only his Executive Assistant who while recognized for his polished social appearance, was never well-regarded because of his arrogance and self-serving nature.

The book is peppered with his memories, but he seems to have a bout of amnesia on several material events during his years in Tatas. As stated by sources, when he was desperate to head Tata Teleservices, the board had great reservations on his proven abilities and this was as far back as in 2007. The Boardrefused to give him that position. Instead they gave him managerial charge of Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Limited, which was in fact onecircle (equaling one regional business area). He neither built a viable business nor led to it becoming outstandingly efficient.

When people like Rajan write books after they leave a Group, they erect statues of themselves made up of lies and grandeur. It is important to take a look at this man’s sterling career: sterling only in his mind and only then will the real Rajan come to the fore. He joined TAS in 1995: Tata Administrative Service and was then moved to Mr Ratan Tata’s office in 1996. An internal source who followed Rajan’s work at TAS closely told us that he had a staff function but no line role. He managed nothing. But was privy to a lot of information that has now been twisted conveniently in this memoir of his. He was then made the head of Tata Tele’s regional office in Maharashtra: no where was this shining star lighting up the firmament as he seems to suggest in his book.

In 2010, he became Managing Partner of Tata Capital: from which he, more than the organization benefited. As confirmed by an inside source, Rajan took home a severance package from the House of Tata of over Rs 40 crores as part of an agreement that he had entered into with the company he was then running. If this isn’t a conflict of interest, what is?

When Cyrus Mistry took over the Group, Mukund Rajan then assumed multiple roles: Chief Ethics Officer; Brand Custodian, Group Spokesperson and Chairman of the Tata Council for Community Initiatives. Yet again, none of these were line functions: roles which he loved because they gave him all the visibility without any responsibilities for the bottom-line or any P&L.

According to the reports, the most telling comment of Mukund Rajan’s tenure is his role as Chief Ethics Officer: during those years, the Managing Director of IHCL, Rakesh Sarna was accused of sexual harassment by Anjuli Pandit: and Rajan nor for that matter any of his then senior colleagues did nothing except victim-shame and leave the case to be addressed once Cyrus Mistry had been removed. This is how self-serving Mukund Rajan has always been. But then Brand Custodians tend to forget the damage they sometimes themselves cause to the Brand. Amnesia and grandeur are two vital features of Mukund Rajan’s persona and it is a reflection of the man’s ethics and his value system that he has chosen to write a book that is not only replete with lies but still panders to a line of thinking that is totally aligned with his previous boss, Cyrus Mistry.

He approached the new incumbent group Chairman, Mr. N Chandrasekaran, to position him as a Managing Director of a large enough Tata company befitting his “gravitas”, Mr. Chandrasekaran was unable to find such a position within the group. He also seems to forget the significant monetary packagehe sought from the group when his services were to be terminated and he has also conveniently forgotten how he blatantly disregarded the communications to him terminating his tenure with the group, as specified by the former members of the group.

The book is a reflection of a person who has all along had an inflated view of his personal capabilities and his ability.With that said, inover 23 years in the Tatas, he has created nothing, built nothing, and left nothing behind. Obviously, he has a lot to say about others and very little to say about himself and his accomplishments. The subtitle of his book is “My Years with Tatas”. Probably “My Disgruntled Years with Tatas” might have been a more descriptive subtitle for his book.

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