IN A sudden and unprecedented move, Cyrus Mistry — the chairman of $100 billion Tata Group— was removed on Monday, and chairman Emeritus of the Group Ratan Tata was recalled as its interim chairman. In the meantime, a panel was set up to search a new chairman within four months. Apart from Tata himself, this search committee will include Venu Srinivasan, Amit Chandra, Sushanta Kumar Bhattacharyya and a former Indian Foreign Service officer — Ronen Sen. But who’s this ex-diplomat? And why has he been roped in to select the next men at the helm of Tata Sons. Here it goes:Seventy two-year-old Ranendra "Ronen" Sen is a 1966 batch IFS officer who retired as India’s ambassador to US in March 2009. After retirement, Sen was associated with the Tata group periodically. For example, he was on the board of Tata Motors, a group company, as a non-executive independent director from 2010 to 2012. Then in April 2015, Sen was appointed as non-executive independent director of Tata Sons, which is the the promoter of major operating Tata companies. Tata Sons holds significant shareholdings in Tata companies which is why the chairman of Tata Sons becomes the overall head of Tata Group.
Apart from being India’s ambassador to USA between 2004 and 2009, a period when he had played a key role in materializing the India-US civil nuclear deal, Sen also served in many an Indian mission including as India’s high commissioner to UK (2002-04) and India's ambassador to Germany (1998-2002). He also served in Russia (1992-98) and Mexico (1991-92) after serving in the South Block as foreign and defence policy advisor of the then PM Rajiv Gandhi.
Sen, however, came into a controversy because of his “headless chicken” comment, for which there was an uproar in Parliament, and Sen later tendered his apology before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee.
His wife Kalpana is a former air hostess with the then Indian Airlines — now a part of Air India.
Despite having a lot of experiences in diplomacy, it won’t be a very easy task for Sen to suggest a new name as Tata Sons chairman. After all, the Tata Steel recently posted a net loss of over Rs 3,000 crore in Q1 of 2016, a problem only getting exacerbated after Britain exited the European Union. Its European operations are reportedly under stress, according to media reports.
So, Sen and the other panelists of the search committee must find a suitable person who will enough capabilities and statesmanship to steer clear the turbulence and lead from the front a behemoth like the Tata Group.