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Tata’s Greatest Challenges: CEO Daily

October 18, 2019, 9:40 AM UTC

Good morning.

I had a visit earlier this week from Natarajan Chandrasekaran—known as Chandra—who sits on top of the world’s last conglomerate: Tata Sons, a $120 billion enterprise which he serves as chairman. The company got its start a century and a half ago in the opium and tea trade, and built new industries as India needed them—cars, steel, chemicals, airlines, and so on. Its business became international thanks to outsourcing, through its Tata Consultancy Services. I asked Chandra if there is any other company in the world that is similar in structure. He said he has looked… but found none.

I asked him what the greatest challenges he faced were, and he cited several: the challenge of finding adequately prepared talent, the challenge of dealing with a digital technology revolution, the challenge of sustainability, and finally the challenge of geopolitics. “How do you survive in a world that is getting more and more connected because of digital technology, and yet where everyone is becoming more and more protectionist?” Good question, which many businesses are struggling to answer.

Chandra has a new book out, Bridgital Nation, that lays out his vision of how technology can help solve India’s deepest problems.

Separately, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum in Davos, has a piece on Fortune this morning arguing that to fulfill the Business Roundtable’s vision of stakeholder capitalism, we will need a new set of economic metrics. Worth reading here.

More news below.

Alan Murray
alan.murray@fortune.com
@alansmurray

TOP NEWS

Apologies for the broken link to Jeremy Kahn's interview with James Dyson in yesterday's newsletter. Here's the piece, which explores the story behind the demise of Dyson's electric car plans.

AT&T Talks

AT&T is reportedly in talks with Elliott Management in an effort to put an end to the latter's activist campaign. The matter may be resolved with a strategic review of AT&T's assets, a push to boost margins, and perhaps some board changes. Or not. Wall Street Journal

China Growth

China's gross domestic product was up 6% year-on-year in the last quarter, with factory output up and retail sales stable. Still, that's the slowest pace of growth for China since the early 1990s, when such records began, and slightly under consensus forecasts. South China Morning Post

Facebook Politics

Mark Zuckerberg has defended Facebook's decision not to ban political ads that contain falsehoods, saying such disinformation is "something we have to live with." The CEO also raised the specter of Martin Luther King's protest-related imprisonment when talking about upholding free expression—but MLK's daughter then pointed out her father was murdered partly because of the spread of disinformation by politicians. Fortune

Renault Shares

Renault's shares plummeted by as much as 15% this morning, following a profit warning. The automaker—under new leadership as of last week—said sales would probably fall 3%-4% this year, and blamed markets such as Argentina and Turkey. It had been aiming for a 6% operating margin but has now revised that to 5%. Reuters

AROUND THE WATER COOLER

Brexit Battle

What are the chances of Boris Johnson's Brexit deal getting through the U.K. Parliament? It's going to be a tight vote tomorrow, but there's a chance of the deal falling as Theresa May's did before it. Here's why, and what would happen next. Fortune

Samsung Manufacturing

Samsung has successfully pulled all its manufacturing out of China, in order to "diversify risks"—it's now turned to Vietnam and India, and has a tiny market share in China these days anyway. "We used Chinese production for overseas sales as well in the past but its competitiveness as a global manufacturing base has decreased," a Samsung executive said. Financial Times

Mulvaney Walkback

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters that the U.S. had withheld military aid to Ukraine because the administration wanted Ukraine to investigate allegations about the Democrats getting foreign help in the 2016 election. "That's why we held up the money," he said, negating the administration's previous denials. Five hours later, the White House issued a statement attributed to Mulvaney in which he said there was "absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election." Bloomberg

Cook in China

Apple CEO met China's market regulator in Beijing yesterday, following the controversy over Apple's yanking of a Hong Kong-protest-related app. The regulator's chief, Xiao Yaqing, reportedly chatted with Cook about Apple's Chinese investments, corporate social responsibility and consumer rights. CNBC

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.