his heritage. When he decided to build India's first indigenous
car, analysts predicted ruin.
Ratan Tata has proved all his critics wrong. And how!
Tata is one of Indian industry's most respected business leaders.
The shy, somewhat reticent chairman has taken the group's
annual revenues to $21.7 billion, or more than seven times
their level when he took over as boss in 1991. He still has
eight years to go before he retires at the age of 75.
Tata has successfully restructured and revitalised a group
that was seen as slow, bureaucratic and unable to deal with
the hurly-burly of today's intensely competitive world. Tata
companies have made aggressive strides in India and abroad,
leading the rush for overseas acquisitions by Indian groups,
and ramping up market shares at home.
Under his leadership, the Tata group has emerged as India's
largest business conglomerate, a modern, unified organisation
ready for the challenges of a young economy and increasingly
global marketplace. He has also ensured that while the group
metamorphoses to meet the volatile demands of a borderless
international market, its tradition of business ethics and
commitment to society remain intact, and even become stronger.
When Tata took office in 1991, he inherited an unwieldy giant
with over 250 companies, representing nearly every industry,
loosely held together by the group management. The immediate
challenge Tata faced was to galvanise this amorphous entity
to face the challenges of a newly liberalised economy. It
was a feat he executed with such skill, foresight and success
that it has silenced his detractors.
Tata took over the helm of the group from his uncle, the legendary
JRD Tata, after spending three decades in relatively smaller
roles in group companies. His first stint was with Tata Steel,
which he joined in December 1962, after returning from the
United States with a degree in architecture from Cornell University
and a brief assignment with the architectural firm of Jones
and Emmons in Los Angeles.
Tata rose to the chairmanship of the Tata Group, at a pivotal
moment in the country's economic history the liberalisation
of the Indian economy. The development seemed to be timed
in his favour. He took over from JRD Tata, who, though a pioneer
in his time, had left the group unprepared for a new economy.
While the group was still pursuing its manufacturing thrust,
the younger Tata had anticipated the opportunities in the
Strengthening an inheritence
Ratan Tata quietly but firmly began to assert the group's
authority on the individual companies. He strengthened the
unified brand image of the group. A major restructuring effort
was undertaken, excess baggage was dropped and businesses
were rationalised and consolidated. The effort ended with
a leaner portfolio of 93 companies, focused on seven identified
industry sectors engineering, materials, energy, chemicals,
services, consumer products, and information systems and communication.
Tata has been instrumental in promoting the Tata brand and
the 'Made in India' tag not only in India but across the globe
in sectors as diverse as steel, automobiles, chemicals and
hospitality. His mandate for group companies was clear: shape
up, or ship out; be among the top three players in your business
or get out of it.
Under Tata's stewardship, the group is in a leadership position
in information technology (TCS, CMC), steel (Tata Steel),
chemicals (Tata Chemicals), tea (Tata Tea) and hospitality
(Indian Hotels), and the Tata name is reaching new geographies
through an aggressive 'internationalisation' effort. The group
now has a presence in 40 countries and exports to 140.
What has ensured the success of Tata's plans is his unwavering
focus on the customer. Quality, he insists, must be the hallmark
of all Tata products and services, no matter which segment
of society or which country they are meant for. Good governance,
fair business practices and social responsibility should be
the guide for all Tata companies, in all locations and at
Recent years have seen the group make rapid strides in its
and JV strategy across the globe. Since 2004 the Tata group
has acquired over 30 companies, totalling about $2 billion.
The group has also built strategic partnerships with global
companies, in order to improve its competitive position.
As he drives the group's expansion plans in other geographies,
Ratan Tata is encouraging Tata companies in India to shift
their focus from the urban to the rural and create products
and services that address the needs of the bottom of the pyramid.
The Taj group's recently launched Ginger chain of economy
hotels, Tata Motor's proposed Rs 1-lakh small car, Titan's
Sonata brand of watches, and Tata BP Solar's initiatives in
harnessing solar energy to light up villages, are efforts
at creating affordable but quality products and services for
small-town and rural customers.
Referred to in the media as a recluse, Ratan Tata is not to
be found at the regular high-society events patronised by
many of his peers. He prefers instead to indulge his passion
for flying by piloting a plane or helicopter to his weekend
getaway at Mandwa, and spending time with his two Labradors.
- Graduated from Cathedral and John Connon
- Bachelor of Science degree in architecture
from Cornell University in 1962
- Advanced Management Program conducted
by Harvard Business School in 1975
- Chairman of Tata Sons
- Chairman of all major Tata companies
(Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Power, Tata Consultancy Services,
Tata Tea, Tata Chemicals, Indian Hotels, Tata Teleservices)
- Chairmanship of the government of India's
- Membership of the central board of
the Reserve Bank of India
- Membership the international advisory
boards of Mitsubishi Corporation,
- Membership the American International
- Membership J.P. Morgan Chase,
- Membership the International Investment
Council set up by the president of the Republic of South
- Membership the Asia Pacific advisory
committee to the board of directors of the New York Stock
- Serves on the board of trustees of
the Ford Foundation
- Programme board of the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundations' India AIDS initiative
- And chairs the advisory board of RAND's
Center for Asia Pacific Policy
Awards and distinctions:
- The Padma Bhushan, on Republic Day,
January 26, 2000
- Honorary doctorate in business administration
by Ohio State University
- Honorary doctorate in technology by
the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok
- An honorary doctorate in science by
the University of Warwick
Compiled by Shifra Menezes