“I took part in firings but only at the level of approval, wasn’t deeply involved in the process. I generally avoided it. But it’s not a pleasant thing if you have to do it.”
It was a confession of sorts from Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy, better known as JRD, the man almost synonymous with the Tata Group in India for several decades, before Ratan Tata took over.
In a Doordarshan interview hosted by journalist Rajiv Mehrotra many years ago, Tata revealed his discomfort when it came to firing (from 6:54 to 11:31 in the video above).
In 1978, Tata was fired as the chairman of his group’s civil airlines initiative Air India by the former Prime Minister Morarji Desai. The Tata Group and the Government of India had an almost equal stake in the air service at the time.
Although Tata laughed about this being the first time he was fired in his life, he felt that the way it was done – he came to know about it from his successor – was unpleasant.
But he understood the decision, too. “If one is prepared to look at things in a human way...understanding that the decisions of others, even if they are adverse decisions... they’re done in the belief that it’s the right thing to do. Mr Desai must have thought it was the right thing to fire me...”