July 2017

'We need different kinds of innovation based on access'

India Inc's innovation focus should be on solving the problem of access to products and services, says N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons

N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons, was honoured with the prestigious All India Management Association (AIMA) JRD Tata Award for Corporate Leadership recently. Launched in 1996, the JRD Tata Award for Corporate Leadership is presented annually to the most outstanding corporate leaders of India.

N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons, receives the AIMA JRD Tata Award for Corporate Leadership from Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India

Speaking at the award presentation ceremony, the Vice President of India Hamid Ansari questioned India Inc’s intent and ability to innovate and compete globally on value and innovation. He said that it was not enough to compete on costs but that Indian companies must raise their investment in R&D.

Mr Chandrasekaran agreed that India Inc needed to invest more in pure research but said that India’s main challenge was access to products and services, and solving the problem of access must be India Inc’s main focus. “Pure research has to happen, but even more important is to come up with innovative models to ensure that what we have is available to all. We need different kinds of innovation based on access,” said Mr Chandrasekaran.

Citing the example of the healthcare sector, Mr Chandrasekaran said that India could not solve its healthcare issues by producing more doctors because it could never produce enough doctors to meet its huge need. “So, provide access to specialists,” he said. He explained that developing skills down the line is the key to ensure that specialists are not bogged down by mundane tasks and get the time to attend to more patients and to do research.

Corporate leaders who were honoured with the JRD Tata Award for Corporate Leadership in the past include Aditya Vikram Birla, Deepak Parekh, NR Narayanamurthy, Anand Mahindra, KV Kamath and Sunil Mittal. Mr Chandrasekaran was awarded for his achievements at Tata Consultancy Services.

T Mohandas Pai, chairman, Manipal Global Education Services, and senior vice president, AIMA, complimented Mr Chandrasekaran on his award and said, “Chandra has built a global business, won global respect and created the second-most valuable services company in the world. That he won on value and not on cost.”

AIMA president Sunil Kant Munjal applauded Mr Chandrasekaran for his outstanding leadership. He appreciated that Mr Chandrasekaran's way was to make people aspire instead of pushing them to achieve.

“Fundamentally, leadership is about creating a spark in the people so that they come up with goals that are not ordinary,” said Mr Chandrasekaran, applauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aspiration of making India a developed country.

Mr Chandrasekaran thanked AIMA for the award named after the visionary JRD Tata, who led the Tata group for five decades. Recounting his only encounter with JRD Tata after joining TCS, he said, “I had only one opportunity to see him from a distance and little did I know that I’ll have an opportunity to lead the group 30 years later.” He expressed hope that he could live up to the leadership standards and values that were dear to Mr Tata.