Winter 2003. Seated one afternoon on our office terrace with a few colleagues and a hot cup of south India filter coffee, I was busy reading a business daily. My attention was drawn to a snippet about the Tata’s intending to celebrate the birth centenary of JRD Tata and Naval Tata along with the death centenary of JN Tata.
“Hey should we propose a quiz to the Tata’s?” was perhaps my first remark, as I drew the attention of the others to what I read. A couple more coffee’s and we were crafting a proposal and figuring who to meet. A few months later I was seated at the Tata Open Tennis Championship, at Chennai, barely two rows ahead of me was Mr.R.Gopalakrishnan of Tata Sons. I would catch a word with him after the match, I thought. Somewhere in between he left with a guest and there went my chance.
We then shared the idea with Ms.Shamala Padmanabhan, who was handling the TCS school IT quiz that we were hosting. She liked the thought and left it at that, until one day, well past dinner, she called to ask me to mail a ‘five slide presentation’ about the idea. Mr.Gopalakrishnan, was visiting the Trivandrum training centre of TCS, where she was posted, and she had a ‘five-minute appointment’ with him to present this. The idea, then called ‘The Tata Open Quiz Championship’ (if you can get the drift of my lack of imagination at naming it) appealed to him and he asked her to relocate to Bombay house for a few months and execute it herself. The next few weeks of my life were at Bombay House, planning the roll out of an eight-city corporate quiz.
Honestly, back then, seated in that historic building, little did I imagine the quiz would grow to reach close to a million people on ground and on social media, would span across 38 cities and multiple countries, given that it is a business quiz. The first season required us to prepare about 600 questions. Today, it is a very different ball game for us as research unit, at Greycaps. We start work about six months before a roll out date, to compile close to 6000 questions each year for a Tata Crucible. We truly love the challenge and it is the most humbling feeling when teams crack our posers effortlessly, especially when we thought it was a tough one.
It takes months to plan each edition, given the massive logistics, the venue availability, travel time etc. Quizzers from small towns travel many a mile to be part of this fabulous quiz. One must appreciate and salute the sheer commitment of the Tata’s to building a knowledge conscious nation, that this quiz has grown to become a movement. It is perhaps befitting that a scribe in London christened it ‘The Wimbledon of quizzing in India’.