Free Press Journal

The Sleeping Tigers: A Revival Story by Rana Som-Review


Title: The Sleeping Tigers: A Revival Story

Author: Rana Som

Publisher: Sage

Price: Rs. 475/-

Pages: XVIII + 224



There are two books in this one book. Both the books are exciting and credit goes to the author Rana Som. Rana Som served as the Chairman-cum-Managing Director (CMD) of Hindustan Copper Ltd (HCL) and National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd. (NMDC). If he would have served in a private enterprise by this time he would have been the darling of media and regarded as the best turnaround man. The book is a shining example of the suffering of public sector units and its employees. Public sector units and its employees are generally perceived as units with laid back management, employees who don’t want to work, unions which create hurdles etc. This book dispels such myths and many more.

Hindustan Copper was a loss-making entity for many years. By 2003, the company’s accumulated losses crossed seven billion. From that position, the company was turned around; it posted a net profit for the first time after 90 months of continuous loss. The company which was to be sold at 100 million in 2003 ended up with a market capitalisation of more than 60 billion. Story of HCL makes the first part of the book, while the story of NDMC covers the second part. Rana Som during his four-year tenure as the CMD took NMDC to the top and made it the best central public sector enterprise (CPSE), the best Navaratna company, the best company on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and so on.

The highpoint of NDMC was when it took over a mining company in Australia and became the first public sector company in Indian to have a successful overseas acquisition. Public sector units have contributed a lot to the growth of nation. Somewhere they lost the shine. Author with this book will be able to get the public sector units the attention they deserve.

Public sector units represent massive state investment, tested technology and quality manpower, but in many cases, their true potential is not realised and they remain sick, under-utilised or stagnant. What they lack is possibly entrepreneurship and vision, which comes from good leadership. The beauty of the book is that it covers two companies who were in two different situations. While HCL was sick, NDMC was profitable but stagnant. It suffered from complacency and therefore stagnation. How NMDC moved from stagnation to growth and diversification and ultimately realised its full potential is a story of awakening, hardship and success.
Author gives due credit to employees, unions, bureaucrats and politicians. It is heartening to read how union and politicians cutting across ideologies and affiliation came together to turn around the public sector. In my view the author has done a disservice by not naming them in the book. All good work and good people should be applauded and acknowledged. There was indeed politics and political hurdles but the author overcame them and that is one of the important lessons of the book. The sacrifice, the suffering, coming together of employees and their families, innovation and risk taken by individuals in public sector units has been well documented and deserves appreciation. Book also demonstrates how the government learns and implements good practices from one unit to other units. Author has been able to dispel many misconceptions about the public sector.

Book is an eye opener where working in Naxal area and land acquisition is concerned. When NMDC decided to set up a large integrated steel plant in a tribal and volatile area in the state of Chhattisgarh, Rana Som spoke to the landowners directly ignoring threat perceptions and establishing an emotional chord with them. For the first time in India, agricultural land was available for industrial use in just four months’ time and more land was offered than what was notified to be acquired.

Book reinforces the age-old wisdom, it is people which make the difference and talking to people is the solution of all problems. One of the rare books on corporate turnaround stories from Indian public sector ecosystem.

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