Spokesman for SMRT quits 5 months into job

Ms Kalai Natarajan will leave SMRT on Monday.
Ms Kalai Natarajan will leave SMRT on Monday.

Comms chief who dealt with several train delays won't need to serve notice

The chief spokesman of transport operator SMRT is quitting after five months on the job, a departure seen as unusual as she is not required to serve notice.

Ms Kalai Natarajan, 41, has handed in her resignation and will leave on Monday, she told The Straits Times yesterday. She also confirmed that she will not be serving notice.

Typically, the notice period for senior management is three months.

Sources said a replacement has been found, but SMRT could not be reached for comment.

Ms Natarajan, a communications and public relations veteran who was a director at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide before joining SMRT, said she has yet to decide on her next career move. She will spend more time at home and "be a good wife" in the meantime, she said.

Besides being SMRT's chief spokesman, Ms Natarajan's responsibilities included corporate marketing.

She was among several new faces brought in by SMRT's chief executive Desmond Kuek to help get the beleaguered firm back on track when he took over the helm last October.

Ms Natarajan started in February this year, taking over from Mr Goh Chee Kong, who left last October.

She has had to deal with several train delays, the most prominent of which was in April when a crack on the northbound track between Somerset and Orchard stations slowed trains to a crawl. On Sunday, an SMRT bus overturned in Dairy Farm Road, killing a passenger and injuring another.

During her tenure, more than five in her communications team of about 10 people quit.

Human resource expert Paul Heng said it was unusual for senior management staff like Ms Natarajan to leave without having to serve notice.

"When people resign, the company will not want those in sensitive positions, like investment or finance, to stay around. But not for a communications position."

Describing the SMRT spokesman position as a "hot seat", he said there may be a "cultural misfit" if senior management staff "are not on the same wavelength".

jermync@sph.com.sg

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