At 27, Mallika Srinivasan joined her father's company Tractors & Farm Equipments (Tafe) as a general manager. She'd been to Wharton and had married TVS Group's Venu Srinivasan, but she isn't the kind to settle into a steady pace. When she joined Tafe in 1986, its revenues stood at `85 crore in a well-protected, closed economy . In the last 30 years, she's grown them to nearly `9,500 crore, taking on international players both in India and abroad.
From 1960, when the company was incorporated till the early 2000s, Tafe made the Massey Ferguson range of tractors in partnership with AGCO of the US. Life was easy paced, and her father A Sivasailam headed Tafe, which was a small part of the Amalgamations empire.
Today , Tafe's revenues have grown more than 100 times. It is the world's third largest tractor exporter and India's second largest tractor maker. It has forward integrated agricultural implements with its tractor business under AgriStar, and acquired and turned around Eicher Tractors in a little over a decade.
And as she talks about it all during a rare hour-long meeting, Mallika Srinivasan, 57, has a gentle smile on her face. “We have reinvented Tafe twice in the past two decades, but without compromising the core values that my father set down,“ she says.
“The most important point is that today we are very well positioned for the future.We replicated the cost-effective Indian way of doing business in our export markets. We are playing a global game from here,“ she says, sipping her third cup of coffee.
Analysts tracking the rise of Tafe agree.“The key to Tafe's success is the holistic changes they have made to the company .Today , what really matters is to have a clear vision and trust in leadership, make sure that there is infrastructure to support that vision, and as an enterprise take business risks. Tafe has done all this well,“ says Abdul Majeed, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“Mallika is a person with marketing ability, both idea and product,“ says columnist S Gurumurthy , who has known her for several decades. “I have rarely seen her getting over-awed.“ Old-timers who have been through the Tafe transformation attribute the turnaround to both Sivasailam and Srinivasan. Sivasailam was known to be as straight as an arrow, and put robust systems and strong values in place. “The silent killer, Mallika, took us to greater heights,“ a person close to her told TOI.“Today , Mallika can walk into any board room and is part of the big boys' corporate club.“