In his biggest appointment since assuming charge as the chairman of the $103 billion (Rs 6.7 lakh crore) salt-to-steel conglomerate, N Chandrasekaran is learnt to have handpicked Aidtya Birla Group’s Saurabh Agrawal as the Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Tata Sons.
The Economic Times reported that Agrawal (48), an IIM alumnus, will join the group in July after a year-long stint with Aditya Birla Group where he currently serves as its strategy head. During his stint, Agrawal oversaw the multi-billion Idea-Vodafone merger and the acquisition of Jaypee's cement assets by Ultratech.
Agrawal’s appointment marks a first for Tata Sons which has created the position of Group CFO for him. Veteran Tata hand Ishaat Hussain has been the Finance Director of the group but he retired from executive functions in 2012 and has been a non-executive member of the Tata Sons board ever since. He steps down later this year after turning 70.
"I am honoured to join the Tata group. It is an exciting time for the group under the leadership of Mr. Chandrasekaran, and I look forward to contributing to the group's profitable growth with my experience in corporate finance," ET quoted Agrawal as saying.
Having begun his career in 1995, Agrawal has wide experience in corporate strategy and execution across a range of industries.
Prior to switching over to India Inc, Agrawal was the head of the Corporate Finance Unit of Standard Chartered Bank in India and South Asia. He spent 16 years at DSP Merrill Lynch where he went on to become the Head of the Investment Banking Division.
"He brings deep capital markets knowledge and valuable cross-industry experience to this critical leadership role in the Tata group. His expertise will help us in driving rigour and synergy in capital allocation decisions, investment management as well as consolidation and optimisation of the group's business portfolio. We look forward to his contribution in driving financial performance of the group," Chairman of Tata Sons, Chandrasekaran, said in a statement.
Notably, Agrawal was also part of the team that blew the whistle on Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju who had appointed DSP Merrill Lynch to find buyers for Satyam in 2009. The ET report, citing its sources, said that Agrawal found some gaps in the accounts, and alerted Sebi along with his mentor Hemendra Kothari, then DSP Merrill Lynch's chairman which eventually led to Raju’s confession.
Agrawal comes into the company at a time when many of the group companies are under financial stress and he would be required to play a key role there.
Interestingly, the idea to appoint a Group CFO was first floated by Cyrus Mistry. However, he failed to find a suitable candidate in his four-year tenure before being sacked in 2016. His failure to find a suitable appointment for the post of Group CFO was also held against him.