Rayaroth Kuttambally Krishna Kumar (18 July 1938 – 1 January 2023) was an accomplished Indian business executive renowned for his association with the prestigious Tata Group. His career was marked by significant contributions to the corporate world and India’s trade and industry.

Early Life and Education

Krishna Kumar was born in the charming town of Thalassery, located in the southern Indian state of Kerala. His parents, Sukumaran and Sarojini, provided the foundation for his education and upbringing. He embarked on his educational journey at the renowned Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School in Chennai, where his father held the esteemed position of police commissioner.

Krishna Kumar pursued higher education with dedication and commitment. He completed his undergraduate studies at Loyola College, Chennai, and secured a master’s degree from Presidency College, Chennai, affiliated with the University of Madras. His academic prowess was evident as he achieved the first rank in his master’s degree program.


Krishna Kumar’s illustrious career began in 1963 when he joined the prestigious Tata Administrative Services. His initial posting placed him at Tata Industries, where he gained valuable experience over the course of two years. In 1965, he transitioned to Tata Global Beverages, formerly known as Tata Finlay, marking the beginning of his remarkable journey in the corporate world.

Through his dedicated efforts, he played a pivotal role in the re-branding of Tata Finlay into Tata Tea. His dedication was rewarded as he rose through the ranks and became the vice-president of South India Plantations in 1982. This marked the beginning of his leadership journey within the Tata Group.

Krishna Kumar’s journey continued as he was promoted to joint managing director of the company in 1988, and just three years later, he became the sole managing director. His dynamic leadership played a crucial role in the development and growth of Tata Tea. Under his guidance, Tata Tea entered into a joint venture with Tetley, UK, in 1992. Subsequently, Tata Tea acquired Tetley in a groundbreaking £271 million buy-out, becoming the second-largest tea company globally. This acquisition was a significant milestone and a testament to Krishna Kumar’s vision.

In 1997, Krishna Kumar assumed leadership of the Indian Hotels Company, the hospitality division of the Tata Group, which includes renowned brands such as Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. His tenure at the helm of Indian Hotels Company was marked by significant events, including the crisis of 1997 when ULFA activists held Tata Tea employees hostage and the 2008 Mumbai attacks when the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel came under siege.

In 2002, Krishna Kumar was appointed to the board of directors of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, further solidifying his role in the Tata family. His dedication and expertise continued to benefit the group as he took on the position of vice-chairman and managing director of the Indian Hotels Company once again in 2003.

Krishna Kumar’s contributions extended to his involvement with two major stakeholders of Tata Sons: the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust. He served as a trustee for these entities, demonstrating his commitment to the Tata Group’s core values.

Recognition and Awards

Krishna Kumar’s significant contributions to Indian trade and industry were acknowledged by the Government of India when he was honored with the prestigious Padma Shri in 2009. This civilian award celebrated his outstanding achievements and service to the nation.

Personal Life

Krishna Kumar shared his life with his wife, Ratna, and the couple had a son named Ajit. His personal life reflected the same dedication and commitment that defined his professional journey.


On 1 January 2023, Rayaroth Kuttambally Krishna Kumar passed away in Mumbai, leaving behind a legacy of excellence in the corporate world and a lasting impact on the Tata Group. His life and career continue to inspire generations of business leaders, and his contributions to Indian trade and industry remain a testament to the power of dedication and vision.