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Case study based learning: Founders, Vision and Philosophies

This is the second article of the series of articles. In this article, we will deal with only one aspect of the entire ecosystem of Case Studies, namely the Founders, their philosophies, and their vision. Two case studies are being discussed to draw lessons from them.


Founders of modern enterprises are men of Vision. They are ably supported by family members who imbibe and faithfully execute every single aspect of the Vision of such founders. There have been many Industrial houses of India, but two stand out for becoming huge conglomerates operating successfully in a wide range of businesses. These two examples, are the Tata Group of Companies, founded by Jamshedji Tata. and the TVS group of companies, founded by T.V. Sundram Iyengar. While major units of the former are based out of Jamshedpur, which is where all the action started, the TVS group started operations from Madurai city, which is the third largest city of Tamil Nadu, famous for the world-class Meenakshi Temple.

What is discussed here are statements of Vision of Founders, the Strategies adopted to give shape to such Visions, the care taken to preserve the Core Values at all times and so on. Specifically, the role of the Founders/ promoters of the aforesaid two groups is sought to be discussed with reference to a) Service beyond commercial considerations b) Honesty and Integrity c)) Quality as a Religion d) Role Models for Others and e) Continuity of the best Values, for decades.

In the first article on the basics of learning from case studies, the concept of loop learning was explained. Here, when we discuss the Vision of Founders, core values and so on, such loop learning is even more important, as it can be seen that the Founders have had Visions that are relevant even today, and are actively practiced by such organizations.

Service Beyond Commercial Considerations

The Founder of the Tata Group had a Vision of the kind of living his employees will have. In a letter to his son, Dhorab, he is on record of saying
"Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens. Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks. Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches." —Tata in a letter to son Dorab about his vision for the township. (taken from a reference to the Founder in Wikipedia).

Let us decipher every single statement. Wide streets, with shady trees of a quick-growing variety. How many Founders have said so? And then places for prayer in a secular fashion? Note that Jamshedji Tata emphasized the secular nature of the organization, decades ago. Today, that very township is called Jamshedpur, a growing city.

The Tatas have lived up to their own ideals. The Founder wanted to establish a huge steel plant. This is now TISCO, the fifth largest steel plant in the world after it acquired the giant steel company of Europe called Corus. The Founder also wanted to establish a world-class institute of science and technology. They had established the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, one of the best cutting-edge scientific institutions in the world. Decades later, the Tata group is synonymous with honesty and integrity. It has always upheld the rule of law. For example, the name of Tata was a bit damaged when the 2G scam was talked about. Its then Chairman, Shri Ratan Tata, appeared in person and cleared all the doubts. Not a single pie was ever paid as bribe for any work, he explained.

Ditto for the TVS group. Nearly one hundred years ago, the TVS group was founded by one Mr T.V. Sundaram Iyengar. Its group company called Sundaram Fasterners is the sole supplier of several hundreds of different types of fasteners to Tata Motors, even today. So, it is a natural marriage between two giants. While the Tata group is very huge in terms of reach abroad, the TVS group is slowly inching its way to become a global conglomerate. For example, many do not know that the world class Foundry Division ( reputed as one among the best ten foundries in the world), and also a Deming Award winner, has a plant abroad in Oman. Sundram Fasteners is lead by Suresh Krishna, whose obsession with Quality is well known. The parent TVS group, still based out of Madurai, is a huge player in the Supply Chain Management Industry, with a company called TVS Logistics. The electrical equipment that goes into a car is hugely manufactured by Lucas TVS. The brake linings is manufactured by Sundram Brake Linings. The picture is complete. The TVS group dominates the auto ancillary industry and has a combined turnver over 7.4 billion US dollars.

Both the groups were founded by men, who never sought to just become rich. Jamshedpur is the perfect example of how a single company can build a city. The TVS group may not have such a huge contribution, but they have also done their bit. The Corporate Social Responsibility of TVS Motors, is doing commendable service, touching the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The TVS group company, Brakes India Private Limited, has contributed to the rapid growth of a small town called Sholinghur in the Vellore District of Tamil Nadu. It has also aided the development of at least sixty villages surrounding Sholinghur.

The learner should make special effort at continuous business development, through continuous service that extends far beyond commercial considerations. What ever data is available in print, should be collected and stored so that the learning is continuous. In this fashion, the Tata and the TVS groups will become excellent case studies by themselves.

Honesty and Integrity

As already mentioned, both the conglomerates are well known for their honesty and integrity. They would never budge an inch. Any person found to indulge in malpractices is dismissed immediately. Both the groups are very well known tax players and never do injustice to any stakeholder, like the suppliers.

The Tata and TVS groups are very well known for their honesty. Sundram Finance, the group company of the TVS group, has been superbly servicing the security needs of hundreds of thousands of depositors. It is the market leader with a superb record in loans to the automobile sector people. Its non performing asset portfolio is so little. The Tata group has interests in Life Insurance and in Mutual Funds. They are very ethical here too.

Quality as a Religion

Both the groups have survived for seven generations. Yet, the groups are famous for the importance that they give to quality, at any point in time. For instance, at least six companies of the TVS group are Deming Award winners. The Tata group had some teething troubles with Nano, as people thought it was a car for poor people.

The Tata group immediately changed the positioning of Nano to a family car. The rest is history. It is still a huge player in the car market. Tata Consultancy Services, TCS, has grown into a formidable IT powerhouse. It is India's largest IT exporter, employing over three hundred thousand people. Indirect employment would exceed at least five times this number. Everywhere, in both the groups, the Quality of the products is a religion by itself.

Role Models for Others

The two past Chairmen of Tata Group, J.R.D. Tata and his worthy successor, Mr Ratan Tata were role models in their own right. Whatever they said was keenly listened to, by even the political bosses. They were superb gentlemen who always spoke the truth, contributed to social causes in hundreds of ways.

Ratan Tata is a leader who taught the entire world, what handling a major crisis like the bomb blast is all about. His efforts to reach of the eighty odd families affected by the bomb blast at the Taj Mahal hotel, is now in bold print, as a case study in hundreds of B schools. Every single word spoken by Mr Suresh Krishna of the TVS group on Quality, inspires thousands. The formidable role models are ones who do not seek publicity. The entire world wants to hear from them. The present Chairman of the Tata group, Mr. N. Chandrasekharan, is a professional who made the TCS grow by leaps and bounds. His strategic moves are now being watched all over the world.

Continuity of the best values for decades

Contrast the contribution of the Tata group and the TVS group vis-a-vis Reliance, the Essar group, the GVR group and so on. These companies owe the banks huge chunks of money. One does not know when the money will come back.

This will not happen with the Tata group and the TVS group. For example, the Tata group has implemented huge Voluntary Retirement Schemes, that the employees have immediately subscribed to. The TVS group has done so, in a limited way, with equally liberal terms. In particular, the TVS group is averse to borrowing from banks or financial institutions. Most of their projects are through internal accruals. They never cheat any employee or supplier. Nothing is given in cash. Every single payment is only through the cheque.

Both the groups are highly ethical to this day. They have lived on for decades and will continue to live on for decades more to come. There will be challenges but both the groups have enough strengths to bear any crisis and get going to greater heights in terms of business excellence and solid contribution to society.


The Tata group and the TVS group are diversified conglomerates. Their Vision to serve the society and the poor people, through hundreds of Corporate Social Responsibility projects, is always a work in progress. There is no full stop. The seeds were sown decades ago. But one can always see the results of hundreds of thousands of employees being married to Visions that have stood the test of time.

The aforesaid two case studies of Founders is something that Indian Business history has to record in depth. This article has traced a few features. It is up to the serious student to pick up the threads and develop the case studies, based on data that will keep coming in, for various quarters.


Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao31 Oct 2018 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 6

A good article with the examples of Tata group and TVS. The word Secularism will be truly followed in India only by such industrial Organisations. Really the service done by the Tata group to our country is beyond expectations. They are more for human considerations than commercials outputs. I know many such organisations which are doing an excellent job of providing better amenities to the society nearby their Organisation. Here they will never have any consideration except serving the public staying in those areas as required.
Even before the introduction of CSR scheme by the government these Organisations started helping the public as per the abilities of the organisation. These organisations consider honesty as their best policy and they will do the service. I can proudly say but for these organisations, the present day development in India is not possible.

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