“I believe that businesses are meant to serve the society, not simply meant to serve the shareholders,” B. Muthuraman told an auditorium filled with students, alumni, faculty and staff on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
Muthuraman, vice chairman of Tata Steel, joined the Robert H. Smith School of Business as the final speaker of the semester in the CEO@Smith speaker series. He spoke to the audience in Frank Auditorium about corporate social responsibility and India’s economic growth, in addition to giving advice to students.
“You can’t ask the government to do everything – business has a role,” Muthuraman told the audience, adding that he believes in providing equal opportunity to all. “The outcomes will never be equal – I am talking about equality of opportunity.”
At Tata Steel, corporate social responsibility is not an afterthought, but part of the business plan. The reason for that: “Of all of the impediments we have in India, I believe it is addressing the social inequity. We require economic growth, but we also require social growth. … Many of the companies and our government are working on that.”
Muthuraman joined Tata Steel in 1966 and has held various positions during his 47-year tenure, including vice president (of both Marketing & Sales and Cold Rolling Mill Projects), executive director, managing director, and non-executive vice chairman. Currently he is the chairman of Tata International Ltd., Tata Africa Holdings Ltd. and serves on the boards of Bosch India Ltd., Tata Industries and Strategic Energy Technology Systems Ltd.
Under his visionary leadership, Tata Steel became a truly global company. The acquisition of Corus, UK and Netherlands, in 2007 was a landmark event in the history of both Indian steel and India itself, heralding the coming of age of Indian companies on the global map.
As he spoke about the social inequity in India, he also talked about the country’s growth and how vastly India has changed in the past 100 years.
“As we talk about the journey of a nation, we have to remember there is no perfect system in the world. You cannot follow one model and have guaranteed success,” he said, speaking about the differences and similarities between India, China and the United States. “Every country has a different model. The jury is still out about which is the perfect system.”
After a brief history lesson on India and its economic growth, Muthuraman gave students advice on what to take away from school, explaining that there is a lot more to a successful businessperson than book smarts.
“When we go to school, we learn a lot of things from books. All of these are knowledge inputs. In order to succeed in life and to tackle the problems you will face in life, you need many qualities other than knowledge,” he said. “The passion to perform, the energy level of a person – how he or she handles failure, how does she handle disappointment? A lot of these qualities are not in the conventional teaching mold.”