by Peter High, published on Forbes
There is perhaps no more iconic brand in India than that of the Tata Group. The company is remarkably diverse, and its leaders have been among the most respected members of the country’s elite since the company’s founding in 1868. Tata Group has been viewed among the most innovative companies in India, but CEO Cyrus Mistry set a goal for the company to viewed among the top ten innovators in the world. The man he has tapped to help lead the efforts behind that is Gopichand Katragadda.
Katragadda is Tata Group’s first ever chief technology officer, and he comes to the company after a long and distinguished career at General Electric, where most recently he was the Managing Director of GE’s India Technology Center. In this interview, Katragadda describes the steps he is taking to put Tata Group on the path to being considered among the most innovative companies on earth, the ecosystem he is fostering to do so, and the areas of focus that will be the first entrees in this effort.
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Peter High: Gopichand, you are the first ever Chief Technology Officer of the Tata Group. How was it determined that now was the right time to establish the role?
Gopichand Katragadda: Many of the conglomerates have the parent as the listed company and the subsidiaries all roll up to the parent, whereas in our case, the Tata Group (the parent) is not listed, and it is the subsidiaries which are listed. The parent has partial ownership of the subsidiaries, but it has quite a parental leverage, and hence a parental obligation, if you will, in multiple areas. It has served this application in many ways, which is the brand aspects of the company and the group companies as well. The technology aspect of each company is doing what they are doing well, but also serving the parental obligation and bringing together companies to address some of the needs which no one company can address. That is the thought process in setting up this role at this point in time.
High: As I understand it, from some of your early conversations with the Tata Group chairman, Cyrus Mistry, his goal was to make Tata Group one of the ten most technologically innovative companies in the world, so I suppose in some ways that was a mandate of yours from the early stages. Can you talk a bit about pursuing that goal and the methods you’re using? I know that you’re a few months into your current role. What are some of the things you’ve done in the early stages to begin to shift the organization towards pursuing that goal?
Katragadda: Some rankings have us in the top 50 innovative companies. I do strongly feel that it is the business model and process innovations that have given us that spot. To move from there into the top ten innovative companies, the role technology plays and adding a good amount of intellectual property, differentiation in products in services, would be what will get us there.