Kerala-born Krishnakumar Rayaroth Kuttambally, known as KK in Bombay House, the headquarters of Tata group) passed away on Sunday evening following a cardiac arrest. He was 84. KK was the right hand man of Ratan Tata for over two decades.  

 “Words cannot describe the deep sense of loss I feel on the passing of my friend and colleague Mr R K Krishnakumar. I will always fondly remember the comradery we shared both within the group and personally. He was a true veteran of the Tata group and the Tata Trusts and will be missed dearly by all,” Ratan Tata said in a statement. 

KK joined the Tatas in 1963 , when he was 25 and for the most part of his career he worked outside of Mumbai. But the bond with Tata was cemented in 1991 when KK played a stellar role in resolving a conflict between the militant group Ulfa and Tata Tea. KK even had to apply for anticipatory bail to prevent any arrest. Subsequently, he became the vice-chairman of two large Tata companies: the Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL), which owns the Taj brand; and Tata Global Beverages, earlier known as Tata Tea. KK also played a key role in 2000 by spearheading Tata Tea’s acquisition of Tetley of the UK in a £271-million deal. As Ratan Tata’s Man Friday, KK become the chairman of at least five other Tata companies, including Tata Coffee and Infiniti Retail in addition to being a trustee at Tata Trusts.


N Chandrasekaran, Chairman ,Tata Sons’ said, “Mr. R. Krishnakumar was a veteran Tata leader who made enormous contribution to the Tata Group over his lifetime. I had the good fortune of knowing him and what stood out was his deep sense of compassion as a human being. He always wanted to help the less privileged and positively impact their lives. We pray for his departed soul and will sorely miss him. 

KK was born in Thalassery, in Kerala. He did his schooling at Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School, in Chennai where his father served as the Police Commissioner. He then went to  Loyola College, Chennai after which he secured his master’s degree from the Presidency College, Chennai. 

KK’s friends remember him to be extremely religious who used to perform puja in the office every day before starting work. Suhel Seth who knew KK for several years said KK was “a humanist beyond compare. Strategist; philanthropist and devoted Tata hand, he will be missed sorely. KK as he was fondly known was more than just a Tata executive. Service was in his DNA,” Seth tweeted. 

Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons said in a Linkedin post, “ He was a legend to so many of us. He was my first boss, and I have learnt so many invaluable lessons from him - on marketing, courage, generosity, leadership and life. He shaped the way I think, and I am grateful to him for having been such a wonderful teacher.” “He was a tough taskmaster, demanding excellence in no uncertain terms. This explains why he was sometimes called KK-47. On countless occasions, I was summarily told to leave his office and re-work. I learnt from him that nothing short of the best is acceptable if we wish to be world-class,” Bhat added.