AFTER years at the helm of the country's most high-profile industry association, Tarun Das is all set to bid adieu.Das, who has been in the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) for over 24 years, and its DG since 1992, is slated to retire on June 1, 1999. The announcement of his retirement and the choice of a new DG at CII is expected to be made the forthcoming Annual Session at New Delhi in April.
The hunt for his successor is still on. According to sources, the final decision on the new DG will be taken by former CII presidents, CII national committee and the all-powerful CII steering committee, by the end of this month. The incumbent would function as the DG-elect till Das hangs up his boots.
The process of change of guard at a chamber which cuts a lot of ice with politicians and bureaucrats is being watched keenly. And this is why, reveal sources at CII, the chamber has to ensure that the incumbent has a strong understanding of current issues—domestic and international policy, Indian polity and a vision for the future.
The frontrunners are the three deputy director generals: S. Sen—currently heading the departments of infrastructure, social development, community affairs, industrial relations and public policy at CII; Manashi Roy—currently heading CII's economic and media cells; and N. Srinivasan—who heads the international division, total quality management, technology, HRD, technical education and training at CII. Sen is the seniormost of the three, and the favourite, since he has been with CII since 1968-69. Next in line is Srinivasan, who joined the association in 1975 and has also headed the executive set-up at the Automotive Components Manufacturers Association (ACMA). Roy joined the association later in 1977-78.
Interestingly, the post of deputy director general was created at CII only a few months ago to which the three frontrunners, then senior directors, were promoted.
Much of what CII has achieved over the years is attributed to Das, who has held the top position ever since four engineering associations were merged to form the Association of Indian Engineering Industries (AIEI) way back in 1974 and its headquarters were shifted from Calcutta to New Delhi. AIEI, as it was known then, was a small, unknown entity working on a shoestring budget, with FICCI hogging all the limelight, being the most powerful lobby at that time. Thereafter, CII underwent several transformations—it became the Confederation of Engineering Industry (CEI) in 1986 and its current avatar, the Confederation of Indian Industry in 1992.
CII's outlay grew slowly but substantially from almost nothing in 1974-75 to Rs 8.24 crore in 1992 and to Rs 67 crore this year, with the headquarters region alone accounting for Rs 25 crore. Its members too increased from 2,000 in 1989-90 to 3,785 in March 1998, mostly due to Das' efforts. "Das was a visionary and could see the emerging trends of the industry. He brought in a lot of issues to the industry several years ago, which have become concerns of the day. These are quality, environment and technology," explains a senior CII official. He also started CII's Indian Engineering Trade Fair in 1975 which has remained popular with the industry till date.
Das joined the Bengal Chamber of Commerce in 1963, and became an executive for the Indian Engineering Association. In 1966, he became secretary at the Indian Refractory Manufacturers' Association and then was promoted as deputy secretary, Bengal Chamber of Commerce. In April 1974, Das joined what is now the CII as secretary. In 1986, when AIEI became CEI, he held the twin posts of secretary and executive director and was promoted to DG in 1992 when CEI—then primarily an engineering industry association—opened its arms to the entire industry and became CII.
In many ways, Das' exit will mark the end of an era in this powerful industry lobby and whoever takes over the reins will have a tough job at hand. After all, the new millennium will have a lot more challenges in store for the Indian industry.