Ability To Transform According To Present Realities Key To Centurions' Survival: Ex-Tata Sons Director R Gopalakrishnan

Gopalakrishnan talks about the importance of business transformation at a time when new technologies are threatening to upend industries

Legacy firms like the Tata Group have managed to become household names and survived the test of times over the last 100 years. Former Tata Sons' Director R Gopalakrishnan said that the key to the survival of centurions, i.e. those who have been in business for over 100 years, in India is the ability to transform according to the emerging reality of the market at any given time.

In an interaction with Outlook Business, Gopalakrishnan said, "The factor working in favour of companies who have been able to survive is the ability to transmit and retain the value system of the leadership over a period of time. But the company has to transform according to the needs of the market."

Also Read | Outlook Business Special Edition On India's Top Centurions

The former Tata Sons and Hindustan Unilever executive recently released his latest book on the importance of business transformation, titled 'Embrace the Future: The Soft Science of Business Transformation'. Co-authored with former Unilever executive Hrishi Bhattacharyya, the book delves deeper into the realities of business transformation.

At a time when the market and technology is changing rapidly, Gopalakrishnan said that it is important to understand the need of transformation. "Moreover, companies have to accept that apart from emphasis on strategic thinking, it is also important to focus on the soft science side of it."

Borrowing from his own experience at two major conglomerates of India, Gopalakrishnan said that investment in human resources and putting in place a strong value system in companies is as important as executing any product strategy.

At a time when artificial intelligence and other new technologies are threatening to upend the business models and realities of several companies, Gopalakrishnan said, "I think it's extremely important for companies to opt for 'coopetation' at a time when there is significant churn across industries. But it's forgotten in the ecosystem of aggressive competition. There have been instances in the past when Indian companies have gone for healthy coopetation which is again the need of the time."

For survival in the long run to replicate the success of centurions, Gopalakrishnan also opined that it is important for young companies to balance short term gains and long term vision. "You have to manage short and long term and the nature of the future leader who will embrace the future will be what I call an 'and' leader. You know, in the old days you said you can either be firm or you could be kind to people. You could either be decisive or you could be procrastinating. We said there are two opposites and you better choose which one you want. That's no more the playing field. The playing field is you have to be kind and you have to be firm." 

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