Article: Karl Slym - A vision cut short


Karl Slym - A vision cut short

He was roped in to overhaul the falling volumes and sagging market share of Tata Motors. People Matters writes a tribute in his memory
Karl Slym - A vision cut short

Tata Chairman Cyrus P Mistry described Slym as “a valued colleague who was providing strong leadership at a challenging time for the Indian auto industry”


Britisher who just cant stay away from India!! Crazy for most sports and loves to know whats going on everywhere!! And hearing from everyone!! MD Tata Motors.

This is how Tata Motors Managing Director Karl Slym described himself on Twitter. So when the news of his death flashed across news screens on January 26, 2014, India went into shock. The British-born executive was brought into Tata Motors to help the company overhaul the manufacturing, sales and distribution operation, including Tata's new-look Nano ultra-cheap car and building a new generation of engines. He ran all Tata Motors’ operations except Jaguar Land Rover.

The sudden demise of the 51-year-old Slym in mysterious circumstances left the market bewildered. He had gone to Bangkok to attend a Tata Motors Board meeting and was staying at the Shangri-La Hotel there. Police reports said that he had jumped to his death from the 22nd floor of the hotel. He was staying with his wife Sally in the room. Police said they did not find any signs of struggle.

Born in Derby, England, Slym was previously vice president of a joint venture of General Motors in China, SGMW and president of General Motors in India. He was an alumnus of Stanford University and a Sloan Fellow.

In his tribute, Tata Chairman Cyrus P. Mistry described Slym as “a valued colleague who was providing strong leadership at a challenging time for the Indian auto industry”. In a speech that was webcast across Tata Motors offices, Mistry said, “Karl was very passionate about the change he was bringing in the last 15 months, we must ensure that the biggest gift we can give him right now is to continue to do our best and strive hard to take his vision forward.” “The biggest tribute to Slym will be to drive his vision ahead and deliver what he had set out,” said Ravi Pisharody, ED and head of commercial vehicle unit, Tata Motors, told Economic Times in an interview.

Slym joined Tata Motors in mid-September 2012. Six months into his job, he was already making radical changes in the organization starting from the very top. He disbanded the old management committee and made it a leaner eight-member team.

In order to shore up Tata Motors’ flagging sales, Slym set a six-point agenda that the company should follow:

  1. Streamlining the supply chain
  2. Setting up new verticals for product planning and management
  3. New quality function, under which it was announced that the requisite team would be directly under Slym’s leadership
  4. New strategy function for both passenger and commercial vehicle
  5. One Team, One Vision: It united the organization to perform towards a single goal
  6. Improving customer experience and changing the mindset of people towards Tata’s after sales services He had brought a lot of optimism into the company amid falling volumes and market share. Tata Motors board is likely to consider Slym’s successor in its board meeting and will most likely choose an insider.

“It was far too early to call him a turnaround king but he (Slym) was putting some necessary changes in motion,” veteran car industry analyst Murad Ali Baig told AFP. He had got the board’s nod for a new product lineup until 2020 and to revamp manufacturing to eliminate customer complaints about post-purchase glitches.

Tata Motors is toning down its usual hoopla that goes with the industry launches out of respect to Slym, but like a company spokesperson said “Going ahead with his plans would be the best tribute to Slym”.

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Topics: C-Suite, Leadership, #Updates

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