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An Indian Approach to Global M&A: An Interview with the CFO of Tata Steel

An interview with the CFO of Tata Steel

Koushik Chatterjee discusses the Indian multinational’s approach to outbound M&A—and its response to the global financial crisis.
by Richard Dobbs and Rajat Gupta

Long a major force in India, the Tata Group is quickly establishing a global presence. With a combined market capitalization of more than $32 billion and operations in every major international market, Tata owns companies in businesses as diverse as consumer products, energy, engineering, information systems, communications, services, and materials.

The group’s largest business, Tata Steel, was established in India in 1907 and retains its headquarters in Mumbai. In recent years, the company has expanded both within Asia (by acquiring Thailand’s Millennium Steel, now called Tata Steel Thailand, and Singapore’s NatSteel Asia) and outside it (through the 2007 acquisition of the UK company Corus, as well as a host of smaller acquisitions, joint ventures, and associations). These now place Tata among the world’s top ten steel manufacturers, and one with a unique perspective on integrating new acquisitions. According to the group CFO of Tata Steel, Koushik Chatterjee, it sends only a few people, not planeloads of employees, to do the job—an aspect of what he describes as a sincere effort to create a partnership that jointly develops a vision for the combined company.

Recently, Chatterjee discussed this approach with McKinsey directors Richard Dobbs and Rajat Gupta. During the conversation, he explained the impetus behind the group’s acquisitions abroad, the effects of the global financial crisis on the steel industry and Tata Steel, and the company’s efforts to improve the efficiency of its operations. The crisis, Chatterjee notes, makes opportunities more apparent—and restructuring more critical for the company’s long-term health.