What draws an IIM Ahmedabad student to the Tata Administrative Services? Is it just the brand TATA that does wonders or there is more to it! How does it become a matter of pride for B-school graduates to be part of the prestigious Tata group by joining as TAS officers?
We posed these and many other questions to the IIM Ahmedabad alum Navneet Sadani, in this episode of InsideIIM Career Podcast.
Navneet takes us through the ups and downs of his TAS stints in detail. Right from his stint at Tata Motors at a Pune facility to having a fun and adventure-filled Trent experience, Navneet bares it all in this episode. Working on some of the famous Trent brands like Westside and Landmark Navneet understood the business of Tatas better.
The Tata Trust stint, which is a compulsory one for any TAS officer, helped Navneet getting a different perspective on the way education is provided in the country. His last stint with m-junction prepared him for the journey ahead with the Tatas.
Expect all the nitty-gritty of what goes into the coveted TAS stint in this episode and get a recipe for a successful career with the Tatas.
We will try to summarize the key learning from this podcast for you:
The first year of career, fresh out of B school, is perhaps the most important year for students. And the thing is that often they don't get it right. They end up joining companies that they are not happy with, they end up getting projects that they're not happy with. In such a setup, TAS does a fabulous job of providing a variety of opportunities to students who joined fresh out of B school and give them exposure to the wide variety of businesses that TAS is home too. This ensures that your idea of a large conglomerate is not limited to a pigeon-holed little office in a particular company in some small part of the country.
You will have a bigger picture idea, you know, what is happening overall in the company? What are its ethics? What is its culture? What are their values?
Access to people who've been in these businesses for many, many years makes you understand this business in a much deeper, in a more intimate way. Access to senior management, access to people who have understood why a certain business has become a legacy business from a sunrise business, ensures that you understand how TAS approaches a new business. A 150-year-old company continues to work on new ideas, new startups, ensuring that it stays relevant for many, many years to come in the future.
Tell us in the comments below if you want to be part of TAS and which is your favorite Tata company.
Can’t listen to the Podcast? Read the entire transcript below
Kunj: Hi guys welcome to another episode of the inside IIM career podcast. Today, I've got someone very young with me. I have Navneet Sadani with me from IIM Ahmedabad. Hi Navneet, Welcome to the podcast. Navneet passed out of IIM Ahmedabad in 2017. Is it?
Navneet: That's right.
Kunj: Yeah. So he's been with TATA Administrative Services for the last two years. Actually Navneet, I wanted to start with asking you why is it important to be exposed to different functions in the first year for someone who's joining fresh out of campus?
Navneet: The charm of the TAS program is the diversity that it can offer. So in the first year, you get to do four stints. Three with business organizations and one with Tata trust. So that's the whole charm. You get to work across different verticals in different industries and that you cannot get anywhere else. It's not like you can’t shift your job every two years saying that I'm gonna move to steel, to motors, to let's say retail. So that's the beauty of TAS program.
Kunj: You said there are three business stints and there's one social stint?
Navneet: That's right.
Kunj: That's I think very unique to the Tata Group. Isn’t it?
Navneet: That actually comes from the values of the tata group. A lot of the money that Tata Group makes, goes back to Tata trust and for plans to pick up. I think it just makes sense that the TAS program should have at least one community stint so that you understand where the money is going, what value what impact are we creating.
Kunj: Right, fresh out of campus, did you do your internship at TAS as well? As in summer internship?You got a PPO during the internship?
Navneet: That's right.
Kunj: So quickly, if you could tell us first what your internship was like, what was your project and what did you do to impress the TAS guys to give you the PPO?
Navneet: So my project was with Tata power, Tata power at that time was launching their customer facing app,
Navneet: And they wanted to get some ideas on how they can improve the app downloads as well as increase the usage of it.
Kunj: Why would tata power need an app? Because it seems like a b2b business. So what would an app do?
Navneet: So the customer facing app would actually give the electricity supply a count. With the app, then you can check your bill, you can pay your bill and you can even see your usage pattern.
Navneet: You can put restrictions over there. It's like any other utility app,
Kunj: Right. What are the three things that you did that floored them completely and got you the PPO?
Navneet: I was creative, just thinking random ideas, and I would not be shy to share it with the group
Kunj: right, Okay,
Navneet: so I had over 30 small ideas over there,
Navneet: the next thing was I was persistent. Because as I said, the app was not out. Directly platform was not out. So it was a lot of chasing that I had to do to understand what the app is going to be. To go and see the demo file of it. Third thing, I think I had a beautiful presentation also.
Kunj: Okay, that always helps, right?
Kunj: So I understand why TAS wanted you to join full time. What made you decide to join full time and start your career here at Tata administrative services?
Navneet: One is that I've always been fond of digital so I wanted to do something in the digital space,
Navneet: And the option that I had over there was either to join at any commerce company, Amazon, Flipkart are the likes of it, or to join a general management company, a large group, which also has a large digital business around it,
Kunj: or they are into digital business?
Navneet: Yes. And then the next thing was that digital does not mean like a pure digital company which will have digital everywhere. So I wanted to join the group which can give me the diversity that I want, so that I can do different things but still be called the digital.
Kunj: So first year out of IIM Ahmedabad, you are at TAS, what was your first project?
Navneet: My first project was with Tata Motors. So I was working out of office where their Pune plant is, and also have other service centers over there,
Navneet: and my project was to increase the spare parts usage of the spare parts consumption through increasing the inflow of vehicles. So they wanted more vehicles coming back to the service centers, those are like,
Kunj: That means you have to make faulty vehicles so they can keep coming back to the service center!
Navneet: No, a faulty vehicle would only mean that they need a service center, associated to tata motor service centers. So my job was to actually retain the customers so that the customers prefer that they come back to the Tata Motors authorized service centers,
Kunj: Rather than going to a random service center or go into an unauthorized one!
Navneet: that's true.
Kunj: What were some of your big learnings out of this because this meant that you were actually studying consumer behavior in terms of why do they choose to come to your service center or go elsewhere,
Kunj: So what were some of your insights that you were able to gather up about the consumer?
Navneet: The first one was obviously quality. While everyone says that maybe the prices are higher, that's why they are not coming or any other reason. I always think it's the quality. People would prefer quality over price with a vehicle, because their life is in hand.
Navneet: And the second learning that I got and that was more of a personal learning is that you should have a mentor in each of your project. Someone who knows the industry someone who has done this before so that they can help you with both things. One is to help you with the knowledge to point you towards the right resources. And the second is that it will help you maneuver things around also. So they'll tell you this is how you should present it this is how you should do it.
Kunj: So it sort of shorten your learning curve because it's a shorter stint that you're doing so you don't want to be learning a lot of things that already exist in the system right?
Navneet: That's right.
Kunj: Okay. So Tata Motors is done. You move on to the next stint, what was your next stint?
Navneet: My next stint was for Trent. Trent is the company that runs various brands under it. It’s the retail arm, they have Westside, Zodio then Zara.
Kunj: Zara is a Trent brand is it, in India?
Navneet: Yes. That's right.
Kunj: I don't think a lot of people know that.
Navneet: That's true.
Kunj: Okay, go on.
Navneet: Yes. And we also have Landmark under Trent,
Kunj: What was your responsibility there? What was your project like?
Navneet: So my project was to identify strategic locations where we would want to open best site stores for the next five years. And in the top cities, actually, this is an activity that was already being done by Trent team. There was a specific team assigned to it, but what they wanted was a new pair of eyes. They just wanted to see if they're missing something out.
Navneet: So I was given complete freedom on how would I want to run this project? Obviously, they did tell me some of the hygiene factors that I should keep in mind.
Navneet: And, there were two phases for each city. One was to do the secondary research,
Navneet: and try to identify those locations and then was the primary where I would go on the field, go to those areas, and see if it makes sense or not, basis my hypothesis. When I would look at a city, I would first start with mapping out where the existing Westside stores are,
Navneet: Then I would even map the competitive stores. Once the mapping is complete, then I would look at what is the connectivity in that city? What are the major roads? What are the public transports? What kind of transport, not just the existing ones, but even what are planned. But then once I have the connectivity between the areas, then I would look at what are the major commercial areas. So, where do people go to work? Once that is identified, then I would actually go on in specific areas as in, let's say, I'll look at Chembur and see what are the upcoming residential projects? What are the property rates over there and property rates both buying and just renting it out? So that I know Okay, what is the spending power of people over there?
Kunj: Also there is a good correlation between the rental rates and the property rates with the purchasing power of the ideal Westside customer is it?
Navneet: I think it's a good proxy.
Kunj: That's the best proxy. I understand.
Navneet: If I'm ready to spend it 30,000 on a 1 BHK in Chembur,
Kunj: Right, Okay,
Navneet: I'll be able to buy something on a Westside. Right?
Navneet: Then I will also go in the shopping areas, whichever is the branded shopping areas,
Kunj: like a high street or a mall,
Navneet: That's true. And let's say if I'm traveling there on a weekday, then I don't expect a lot of crowd, but at least I should get something. But if I go out on a weekend, and there still not crowd, there is something wrong. The crowd itself is not enough. Nowadays, people just go to the mall just to hang out very few people are shopping over there. So I would see how many people have packets holding,
So this kind of research about a particular location in a particular city, how long would it take for you to do this entire set of things that you said you would do in a particular location?
Navneet: So I had three months for this project, and I covered Delhi Gurgaon Faridabad, Noida that's the NCR region, then Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.
Kunj: Wow, that’s quite a lot of cities that you covered with this right?
Navneet: That's true.
Kunj: A lot of traveling also for those three months that you must have done.
Navneet: Yes, I think I easily spent a month traveling.
Kunj: Okay, well,
Navneet: So I would cover one or two cities which are nearby and back to Mumbai do my research for the next couple of cities and then travel over there.
Kunj: All right. Okay, so a fine Trent experience and then you move on to your next stint, which is that, Tata trust? I want to know, firstly, for a business grad who's going to work in a hardcore business, like Tata, Why is the social stint important?
Navneet: I’ll give it from both sides. And which in my understanding, it's important for the TAS program to have it because as I said, the philanthropic arm is a big part of the Tata Group,
Navneet: It's a big part of the culture also. So you need to be aware about that from a TAS managers point of view. It is not just that you're looking at the social aspect of it. You are not doing Business not for profit. But all the things that are applicable for a business is applicable your also.
Kunj: So you should be able to do it efficiently, you should be able to operationalize it in a way that all the resources are being consumed properly. Those kinds of things is it? Do other business principles that apply to a social set up.
Navneet: Yes, every function that you would see in a Trent, Tata Motors and any other company would be valid over a year also have HR, you have patients, your finances, you have a strategy, you have everything over here.
Navneet: My project was with Parag initiative.
Navneet: that is under the Education theme of tata trust. And the 10:36 there is to build libraries or to facilitate the library program in schools.
Kunj: What is it like working with kids? This was probably the first time you must be looking at kids as a target audience doing something for them and also interacting with the final consumer in your journeys around Karnataka. So what was that? Like?
Navneet: I personally don't like reading books that a lot. So I have never been that fond of it.
Kunj: For a person who has made it to IIM Ahmedabad that's a very surprising statement for you to make, but anyway.
Navneet: Out of choice.
Kunj: Okay, go on
Navneet: They will look forward to the library sessions. And not every school would have the infrastructure to have a dedicated room for a library, so they will just convert the room to a library or something.
Navneet: just the amount of effort they are doing to run the library to have a facilitator over there. And I actually spoke to the children directly without having anyone else as much as I could do with him. Being a person who has no knowledge of Kannada, they seem to enjoy it, they seemed to like it and the teachers did see a difference.
Kunj: So the tata trust, stint is done. You come out of it with a bunch of learnings and memories and all that. And then you move on to your final stint Is it?
Kunj: So where was your final stint? What were you doing in the final stint?
Navneet: So my final stint was with injunction.
Navneet: selling secondary steel online so they had an auction platform,
Kunj: So this is a Tata steel stint or is it an m-junction stint,
Navneet: It's an m- junction stint, m- junction is a joint venture between Tata Steel and SAIL.
Kunj: Okay, Steel Authority of India Limited.
Navneet: That’s right, they started with auction of secondary steel online auction. And after then they have gone into many other businesses. So now they also do auction of coal, auction of many other divisions. My project was to develop a business model for selling prime steel online. So this will not be an auction platform like for the secondary steel, but multi sided ecommerce platform.
Kunj: What is a multi sided platform?
Navneet: I think a lot of platforms today are multi sided. But multi sided is just not the buyer and the seller, you have other people around, so in this case, you would have a logistic partner,
Navneet: would also have the service centers.
Kunj: Okay, so now your stints are over and then you are basically placed in a specific company for a longer term role.
Kunj: So which is the company that you got placed into and what was your role there?
Navneet: So I'm currently working at Tata Industries.
Kunj: Okay, so after your stint this has been your role ever since?
Navneet: Tata Industries in the new venture arm of Tata Group,
Kunj: It sounds so exciting.
Kunj: Okay. So what is Tata Industries? And what does the new venture arm do?
Navneet: New Venture arm, it tries to look for new business opportunities in the white spaces,
Kunj: In the white spaces as in?
Navneet: Where Tata group is not currently present.
Navneet: And we try to focus on tech led ideas,
Navneet: I'm part of the digital team, my primary objective or my primary role is to identify new business opportunities around IOT, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity, app tech and so on.
Kunj: That sounds fun. You know, these are buzzwords on campus that I want to work for artificial intelligence and blockchain and machine learning and all these terms, and it's something that you are getting to do right in the middle of it. That must be exciting, right?
Navneet: Yeah it is. So one day, you're working on a project that is related to machine learning, and you're learning to understand the whole concept of machine learning the technology behind it.
Kunj: Something even IIM Ahmedabad mustn't have taught you on campus, right?
Navneet you have seen a lot of businesses within Tata. You've seen consumer facing businesses like a Tata Motor, Trent. You've seen b2b businesses like Tata Steel. You've also seen the social side of the business at Tata’s trust. It also doing something really interesting at tata Industries right now, two years into TAS, what has your experience been like? What is your overall feeling about the group? What are some of the things that they do? And what are some of the things that are always a challenge for this group?
Navneet: If I talk about my learnings, and what I really liked about the whole TAS program, I wanted experience across different industries, and I've got that and to be very fair, I've got experience and these stints, I gained experience on digital side of it. My m- junction stint, and then I'm currently working with the digital space at Tata Industries.
Kunj: Right,So which is so secretive that I can't even delve deeper into it.
Navneet: I'm working at Tata industries. I come across a lot of startups, some of which are in current area of interest,
Navneet: but may help some other to Tata group company. So you can think of it there's always something that I can do with the startup and see yes, it may have relevance to this tata company so this is just the vast area that we have presented.
Kunj: That most startups that you're considering will have some linkage to a tata company somewhere we were there are just so many tata companies and so many diverse businesses today.
Kunj: So great journey, Navneet two years into TAS. You've done a variety of roles and done really fascinating things. Where to next, what do you want to do in the next two years for example, as to what are some of the things that you want to get your hands dirty with?
Navneet: In the last one year specifically, I have looked at so many startups and digital space that doing so many different things but amazing stuff, right? So I think the next thing what I would want to do is now be in that startup. So wherever the next new venture is, or the next new business opportunity is, I want to get there and get my hands dirty. You know in a startup and even at Tata Industry, it is a short team, you get to do everything you own everything. So that's the next thing that I want to do.
Kunj: 150 years the company has survived and it still keeps bringing up new companies. And you know, it keeps attracting really great young talent who want to then work in startups that are going to sprout further in this setup. That's quite amazing.
That's a comment on how amazing this organization has been for so many years. The first year of the career, fresh out of B school, is perhaps the most important year for students. And the thing is that often they don't get it right.
They end up joining companies that they are not happy with, they end up getting projects that they're not happy with. In such a setup, TAS does a fabulous job of providing a variety of opportunities to students who joined fresh out of B school and give them exposure to the wide variety of businesses that TAS is home too.
This ensures that your idea of a large conglomerate is not limited to a pigeon holed little office in a particular company in some small part of the country. You will have a bigger picture idea you know, what is happening overall in the company? What are its ethics? What is its culture? What are its values? Access to people who've been in these businesses for many, many years, makes you understand this business in a much deeper in a more intimate way. Access to senior management, access to people who have understood why a certain business has become a legacy business from a sunrise business, ensures that you understand how to approach a new business.
And a 150 year old company continues to work on new ideas, new startups, ensuring that it stays relevant for many, many years to come in the future.
And that's what we figured from today's podcast while talking to Navneet. How he's working on newer ideas, newer businesses, so that Tata can maintain its leadership for many years to come. Thanks Navneet !Really appreciate what you've done today. Thanks for giving us your time. I hope you had a good time talking to us.
Navneet: Thank you, it was really fun.
Kunj: Alright, thanks Navneet.
That's it for today's InsideIIM podcast. We'll see you again at the next episode.
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