Noel Tata takes over as chairman of Trent

Noel Tata Noel Tata today took over as chairman of Trent, the retail company created by his mother Simone Tata after selling off the cosmetics business Lakme to Hindustan Unilever.

Noel, 57, is the brother-in-law of Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry. He was vice-chairman of the company and was instrumental in getting British retail giant Tesco as a partner to invest in Indian retailing.

He succeeds Tata group stalwart F K Kavarana, who retired on Sunday.

The joint venture plans to invest Rs680 crore in multi-brand retail stores in the country, the first such venture after the union government opened the sector for foreign direct investment in September 2012. The son-in-law of Pallonji Mistry, the largest single shareholder of Tata Sons with 18.5 per cent equity, Noel was earlier tipped to take over as group chairman after Ratan Tata.

Tata was the managing director of Trent from 1999, a post he relinquished in 2010 to become the vice-chairman. The company's consolidated turnover rose from Rs8 crore in 1999 to Rs1,932 crore in 2013.

He is also the non-executive chairman of Tata Investment Corporation and chairman of Landmark, the group's book and music retail outlets.

Like Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry, Noel Tata is rarely seen in public. But industry watchers say he is working quietly to build a world-class retail organisation in in India.

Noel, who built Trent into a Rs1,000-crore company and launched a slew of brands in India such as Sisley and Zara, is  launching global brands from Tata International, the export and trading arm of the group.

Noel had launched Zara through a venture with Spain's Inditex group and followed this with another venture with the group for Massimo Dutti stores. Tata was also instrumental in signing a franchisee agreement with UK's Tesco to provide back-end support for Trent's Star Bazaar stores.

Trent's venture with Italy's Benetton Group to run Sisley stores in India, however, didn't see much success.

After Noel took charge of Tata International, he ventured into footwear retail under the Tashi brand. In late 2010, Tata International took 76 per cent each in Bachi Shoes India and Euro Shoe Components. In 2011, the company took 51 per cent in Portugal's Move-on shoes.

But Tata International had to scale down its footwear retailing venture, as most of the stores were rendered commercially unviable.

In a statement to the bourses, Trent said that in compliance with Tata Group's retirement policy for directors, Kavarana, who has been the chairman since 2006, has stepped down from the board on March 30 and Tata has taken over as chairman from Monday. Under Tata Group's retirement policy, non-executive directors have to step down at 70.