Business

‘I Just Got Fired!’ Nirmalya Kumar on His Removal From Tata Sons

“It was not as if I was fired for non-performance (my last evaluation was excellent). … I was fired for just being there at my position – working intensely and extensively with Cyrus.”

Nirmalya Kumar. Credit: Facebook

Nirmalya Kumar. Credit: Facebook

Nirmalya Kumar, a former member of Tata Sons’ recently disbanded group executive council (GEC), published a blog post on Saturday revealing the he was fired on the same day as Cyrus Mistry.

A colleague whom he got along with quite well, Kumar wrote, called him to say that his services were no longer required and he need not come to work the next day. It was “all over in a minute”. Kumar wrote:

“Once fired, you discover your friends and the integral qualities of those who worked with you. The interesting insight for me was that the higher in the organisation you go, this “human” aspect declines. The people at the “bottom” of the pyramid treated me with the same respect and affection as always. Their smiles were genuine and open. Those in the middle, like my team, were sincerely sad to see me go.  They repeatedly mentioned what fun it was to have worked with me. It was not as if I was fired for non-performance (my last evaluation was excellent). I always do my best – it’s the least I expect from myself and the most anyone can expect from me. I was fired for just being there at my position – working intensely and extensively with Cyrus.

The reaction at the top of the pyramid was interesting. With three exceptions, the many CEOs and top executives I worked with closely for three years went silent. I wonder what it is that the more we have, the more we become prisoners at the thought of losing it, rather than having it set us free. The lesson for my team was clear. I told them these people have made it to the top. They know how the system works. When in future anyone mentions me, please don’t say anything positive. Throw me under the bus to gain credibility in the new regime. It’s my parting advice.”

Even on his way out, Kumar had positive things to say not only about Mistry but also about the company:

“Despite the unceremonious and un-Tata like end, I have nothing negative to say about the Tata group. It was not the fault of the 670,000 Tata people and does not reflect on them. What I found exceptional about the group was the kind of person that Tata attracts – unpretentious and dedicated.

…Finally, I really loved the job. It gave me, an academic, a ring-side seat to a 100+ billion dollar group. The amazing discussions we had on what the group should look like in 2025, bouncing ideas back and forth, challenging each other and then coming to a joint view and understanding of the potential portfolio 2025, after debating the trends and financial prospects. In my 30-year career, I had only three bosses who inspired me: Lou Stern, my PhD advisor at Northwestern University; Laura Tyson, my dean at LBS; and you. Thank you, Cyrus.”

On Friday, Tata Sons issued a statement announcing organisational changes, saying that Kumar, along with N.S. Rajan and Madhu Kannan (also members of the GEC), “have decided to explore options outside Tata Sons and have left the services of the company,” Livemint reported. Earlier this week, Tata Chemicals Ltd also said that non-executive director Kumar has resigned from the company’s board as of October 31.