Brand custodian at Tata Sons, Harish Bhat, who has held many roles in the Tata Group over the past 34 years, is out with his newest book, #TataStories: 40 Timeless Tales to Inspire You. A sequel to Tata Log, which elaborated on how the company emerged victorious from strategic and operational challenges, this new collection offers tales of individuals, events, and places from the Tata Group. Bhat in a conversation with The Morning Standard, reflects on the anecdotes from the book, while offering a lesson or two to young managerial aspirants. Excerpts from the interview:
Why did you write this book?
My objective was to narrate stories that can inspire and elevate readers in the midst of this challenging pandemic. #TataStories is a collection of 40 such inspiring, real-life tales from the Tata Group. I have been part of this wonderful institution throughout my career, and these are the stories that I know best. Stories of courage, grit, persistence, resilience, failure and success from the life of legends such as Jamsetji Tata, Sir Dorabji Tata, Lady Meherbai Tata, JRD Tata, Ratan Tata, Sumant Moolgaokar, Darbari Seth, Xerxes Desai, and many others.
Even more interesting is that each one holds lessons for our own lives. So, here is a book of business history, but, in my view, it is also a unique selfhelp book. For a writer like me, that was such an interesting combination to work on.
Please take us through some interesting anecdotes mentioned in the book.
There’s one of how Jamsetji Tata, Founder of the Tata group, was determined to put up India’s first integrated steel plant, in the 1890s, and needed the best expertise from around the world. He met Charles Page Perin, an eminent consulting engineer of New York, and attracted him all the way to India to build a steel plant, which is not just a remarkable story, it is magical.
Another beautiful anecdote is about why Kalpana Chawla on her first mission into space had carried with her an old black-and-white photograph of JRD Tata. In the book, you will read where this photograph is displayed today, and why. This is an astonishing story of two people who are great sources of inspiration to us in India, and it asks us the question how will we strive to achieve our own dreams?
Take us through your interest in writing non-fiction books.
I have great interest in researching and writing in the area of business history, because I think history holds many lessons for us. That is why I wrote #TataStories, which, in many ways, is a sequel to my first book, Tata Log. I also love writing in the area of marketing and consumer behaviour. I like good food, fitness and reading, but nothing comes close to writing, really.
Any suggestions for young managers in the highly competitive world today?
Three suggestions. First, take time to explore, and find a space that you truly love working in. That always works wonders. The second suggestion comes from a very special story I have narrated in this book, regarding a letter that JRD Tata once wrote to a school teacher, in which he said, “One must forever strive for excellence, or even perfection, in any task however small, and never be satisfied with the second best.” What a powerful piece of advice. Third, do read this book, if you can as these astonishing stories can transform your thinking forever.