Taking India Global
Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, a 29 year old, while working in his father’s banking firm, established a trading company in 1868 in Bombay. It was to grow later into a behemoth, India’s largest corporate group that touched every Indian in some way or the other. Sixty-nine years later, another stalwart was born to lead the company in new directions.
Ratan Naval Tata, born on December 28, 1937, began his career at the age of twenty-five. He completed his B.S. in architecture from Cornell University and started working as a general worker, shovelling limestone and handling blast furnace at the Tata Steel factory in Jamshedpur. In 1991, following the resignation of JRD Tata, Ratan Tata was appointed as the chairman of the Tata Group. The move was not welcomed by many who pointed to his lack of experience in running a group as big as this.
Tata didn’t let the criticism deflect him from his chosen path. On taking over, he dusted off the 1983 plan and updated it, taking the newly opened-up economy into account. To the surprise of his detractors, the company grew over the years into a salt-to-software conglomerate, a behemoth that would symbolise the success of Indian entrepreneurship on the global stage. In 2012, The company emerged as the country’s first business house to record an annual turnover of more than $100 billion.
With its presence in more than 80 nations and markets across Asia, Africa, America, Europe and Australia, Tatas have made a number of high-profile takeovers abroad, including acquisitions like Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008 and Corus Steel in 2007. Among its key businesses, the group is present in IT, steel, automobile, power, hospitality, telecom, chemicals, consumer goods and retail, engineering and chemicals sectors.
Some of the major Tata firms include Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Tata Power, Tata Chemicals, Tata Global Beverages, Tata Teleservices, Titan, Tata Communications and Indian hotels. Most of these occupy leadership positions in their respective businesses.
“You can live in a house, drive a car, make a phone call, season your food, insure yourself, wear a watch, walk in shoes, cool yourself with air-conditioning and stay in a hotel, all courtesy of Tata firms,” said an article in The Economist.
In an interview that was posted on the Group’s website, Ratan Tata said one of his most satisfying moments as chairman was “the welding of the organisation together in a more cohesive way than it had been in the past, that it was able to identify itself more as a group”.
In 2009, Ratan Tata launched the Nano at INR 1 lakh. It was positioned as the world’s cheapest car. The Nano was the pinnacle of an innovative journey. Ratan Tata has always feted individuals or teams that have worked on an interesting project even if it didn’t succeed, under a programme called “Dare to fail”.
In 2008, Ratan Tata received Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour given away by the Indian government. He was awarded lifetime achievement award by the Rockfeller Foundation in 2012. Ratan Tata, now 76, is one of the most successful Indian businessmen. He is a patron of innovation, a philanthropist and a visionary but little is known about the personal life of the bachelor industrialist.
Two years back on his 75th birthday, Ratan Tata stepped down from all the executive responsibilities at Tata Group. He is currently the Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons. He continues to serve as the Chairman of Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Sir Ratan Tata Trust and their allied trusts which together hold 66 per cent of shares in the group holding company.