Reason why former foreign secretary S Jaishankar, one of India’s top diplomats, is now on Tata’s rolls

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The Tatas have an eye on the world and hopes of a growing through global business. That seems to be the message sent by the appointment of India’s former foreign secretary Dr S Jaishankar as the Tata group’s president of global corporate affairs.

Hiring a diplomat credited with shaping the aggressive yet nimble foreign policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which has enhanced India’s status as a world power hints at the Tata group too trying to win the world.

It already earns nearly two-thirds of its revenue from outside India.

In his new role, Jaishankar will be responsible for the group’s global corporate affairs and international strategy development, overseeing Tata Sons’ international offices, a release said.

He will work with the group companies to help them strengthen their business presence and positioning in their respective global geographies.

Jaishankar, who has served as the foreign secretary from January 2015 to January 2018, was India’s longest serving foreign secretary in four decades. Architect of Modi’s foreign policy, he had Modi’s faith. During Modi’s visit to the US in September 2014, Jaishankar managed the Prime Minister’s grand Madison Square Garden event. Attended by over 18,000 people, it was a runaway success.

Jaishankar also steered India’s policy through the Doklam standoff with China which was likely to flare up into a military conflict. He has also been India’s ambassador to China and the US.

During Manmohan Singh’s term, Jaishankar had negotiated India’s civil nuclear agreement with the United States. The deal took more than three years to come to fruition, but it was finally signed in October 2008 and signaled a watershed in US-India relations.

The Tata group hiring such a top-notch diplomat indicates a renewed emphasis on global growth. Jaishankar’s access, experience and skill will stand Tata in good stead.

Tata sons created a position of director, international strategy, perhaps for the first time in 2004. Alan Rosling, who was special adviser to British PM John Major, occupied this position for five years till 2009 under Ratan Tata’s chairmanship. During this period Tata Steel acquired the Anglo-Dutch company, Corus and Jaguar and Land Rover in the UK. Subsequently, Madhu Kannan, former BSE CEO, headed business development at Tata Sons, and later in 2016 Mukund Rajan handled this role for about one and half years.

The Tata group’s huge business footprint in Europe is likely to be impacted by Brexit. The prospects of JLR and merger of Tata Steel with Thyssenkrupp will depend on how the Tata group negotiates with various governments. Software services exporter Tata Consultancy Services, which has become India’s first $100 billion company by market cap, faces policy challenges in the US where the Donald Trump administration is restricting visas to Indian techies. Aviation business of the Tata group can make good use of Jaishankar since it involves negotiations with foreign governments. His exposure to China can help the group reach new markets, especially for JLR.

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