The University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business in partnership with the Tata group of companies presented the “Tata Dialogue on Innovation” on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. R. “Gopal” Gopalakrishnan, director of Tata Sons, talked with students during a conversation that was moderated by the Smith School’s Vice Dean Joyce Russell. Students from across campus attended the event, which was held Van Munching Hall.
Tata is often ranked as one of the “Top 50 Most Innovative Companies” in the world with more than 100 operating companies, including well-known brands such as Jaguar Land Rover, Eight O’Clock Coffee, and Tetley Tea.
Gopalakrishnan’s comments focused on innovation and how it is influenced by unique international and cultural perspectives. He said that innovation is a relatively new word that means different things to different people. There is not one word in India that translates to “innovation.” Innovation is not just a clever idea that helps a lot of people, but he believes it’s an idea that is difficult to replicate.
How can you be an innovative leader? “First you need to be a good follower,” said Gopalakrishnan. He urged students to not make excuses – not enough resources or money. Get an idea, sell it, prototype it, make it, and sustain it.
“There is a certain naturalness to innovation,” said Gopalakrishnan. “A child practices innovation in a really natural way. They try to innovate. Then you go to school and you are assimilated to society… taped up, wired up.” He said that we need to try to consciously take off the tape to be open to innovation.
Also, you need a healthy body before your mind is healthy – how can you be innovative if you are really tired? Gopalakrishnan said that exercise is the daily habit that has had the biggest positive impact on his life. He swims or plays tennis or golf each day. If he can’t do one of those activities, he heads to the gym. “Exercise pumps up your blood and makes you feel healthy,” he said.
Gopalakrishnan also stressed the importance of philanthropy: “Philanthropy comes out of self-awareness. I hope some of you will make billions and give back. It's ok to make money so you can you use the money for good. To influence people you need to touch not only their minds but also their hearts.”
The Tata group of companies is emerging as one of the world’s most trusted and respected corporate names. Combining ethical values with proven business performance and leadership, Tata has a heritage of deep social commitment that has earned the trust and respect of its stakeholders. In the United States, the Tata group has had a presence for over 60 years. As the largest India-headquartered multinational in North America, Tata has 11 companies and more than 24,000 employees in the United States and Canada, with well-known brands such as Jaguar Land Rover, Tetley Tea and Eight’ O Clock coffee. At Tata, innovation is a critical vector for improving quality, performance and competitiveness. The Tata group has adopted a three-pronged strategy to encourage and enhance innovation across its companies. The three key drivers are better communication and recognition of innovative ideas and efforts; facilities and initiatives that enable learning from other companies; and support for collaborative research and partnerships with academia. For more information please visit northamerica.tata.com and www.tata.com.