Saturday, December 10, 2022

Dr. J J Irani, the man who turned Tata Steel around, is no more

Dr Irani was associated with Tata Steel for over four decades, he retired from Tata Steel board in June 2011

Jamshedpur: Dr. J J Irani, the man who turned Tata Steel’s fortunes around, extricated it from lacklustre performance and slowly laid the foundation of a solid future for the company, is no more. He breathed his last Monday at TMH in Jamshedpur. He had been ailing for some time.

He is credited for having identified the pain areas of the steel behemoth correctly and then going about correcting the situation slowly and methodically.

Hugely disproportionate and unproductive manpower was the Achilles’ Heel for Tata Steel when he took over as its Managing Director.

After the departure of Russi Mody the company was in doldrums and breathing heavily.

It was the team put together by Dr. J J Irani that went about making changes, slowly and methodically, that later added to the company’s profitability and infused new energy and brought about several new technologies and new initiatives that resulted in good performance and profitability.

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Sanjiv Paul has condoled his death and has called it an ‘End of an era’.

In his tweet he remarked: “Dr Irani will be remembered for many things. His final act as MD was Performance Ethic Program. He could easily have left this much required but difficult and controversial decision to next MD. But he bit this bullet. Leadership personified! Om Shanti!”

Dr. Irani was bestowed with Padma Bhushan too by the government for his contribution to steel industry.

He worked with Tata Steel for more than 40 years and served on the baord of Tata Steel too. He retired from the board of Tata Steel in June 2011, leaving behind a legacy of 43 years, which won him and the Company international acclaim in various fields.

Born on June 2, 1936 at Nagpur to Jiji Irani and Khorshed Irani, Dr Irani completed his Bachelor of Science degree from Science College, Nagpur in 1956 and Master of Science degree in Geology from the Nagpur University in 1958. He then went to the University of Sheffield in UK as a J N Tata scholar where he secured a Masters in Metallurgy in 1960 and a PhD in Metallurgy in 1963.

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He started his professional career with the British Iron and Steel Research Association in Sheffield in 1963 but always yearned to contribute to the Nation’s progress and returned to India to join the then The Tata Iron and Steel Company (now Tata Steel) in 1968, as Assistant to the Director in-charge of Research and Development. He went on to become General Superintendent in 1978, General Manager in 1979, and President of Tata Steel in 1985. He then became Joint Managing Director of Tata Steel in 1988, Managing Director in 1992 before retiring in 2001.

He joined the Board of Tata Steel in 1981 and was also a Non-Executive Director from 2001 for a decade. Besides Tata Steel and Tata Sons, Dr Irani also served as a Director of several Tata Group companies, including Tata Motors and Tata Teleservices.

Dr Irani was the National President of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) for 1992-93. He was conferred several honours, including his appointment as International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1996 and an Honorary Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997 for his contributions to Indo-British Trade and Co-operation. In 2004, the Government of India appointed Dr Irani as the Chairman of the Expert Committee for formation of the new Companies Act of India. He was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2007 for his contribution to industry. He was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Government of India in 2008 as acknowledgement to his services in the area of metallurgy. 

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He will be fondly remembered as a visionary leader who led Tata Steel from the forefront during India’s economic liberalisation in the early 1990’s and immensely contributed to the growth and development of the steel industry in India.

Dr Irani was the earliest leaders of the quality movement in India. He enabled Tata Steel to reinvent itself with a focus on quality and customer satisfaction, while becoming the lowest-cost steel producer in the world with quality that could compete in the international market. He was instrumental in starting the Tata Education Excellence Program in 2003 to improve the quality of academic facilitation through a calibrated approach adopted from the renowned Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence criteria.

He was a keen sportsman who played and followed cricket till his last and had a passion for stamp and coin collection. Being a metallurgist, his interest in the research, development and collection of metals and minerals is celebrated. His love for the city of Jamshedpur has led to several key developments that will continue to benefit its citizens. His active public life will forever inspire generations.

Dr Irani is survived by his wife Daisy Irani and his three children, Zubin, Niloufer and Tanaaz.

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