Monday, April 19, 2010

Ratan: The Jewel (A brief introduction to Ratan Naval Tata)

I am posting this article not because I've been currently hired by TCS, but because this man, named Ratan Naval Tata, at the age of 72, was voted as India Inc’s Most Powerful CEO for 2009, second year running and also India Inc’s CEO of the Decade by the 500 respondents interviewed by IMRB for The Economic Times Corporate Dossier magazine, beating the likes of Mukesh Ambani, NR Narayana Murthy, Anil Ambani, Sunil Mittal and Rahul Bajaj.

Ratan N. Tata was born on December 28, 1937 in Mumbai, India in one of the richest families in the country. His great grandfather, Jamsedji Tata, was the founder of the Tata group and passed the power and inheritance down to his family. Ratan grew up in a broken household, however, after his parents split in the mid-1940s and he and his brother were raised by their grandmother, Lady Navajbai.

Ratan was a good student and studied hard at the Campion School in Mumbai followed by studies in architecture and structural engineering at Cornell University. Ratan Tata completed his BSc degree from Cornell University in 1962, and the Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School in 1975. During the 10 years that he spent in the US, Ratan took up all kinds of jobs, including washing dishes, to make ends meet. The dollars mandated by the Reserve Bank were not enough. In December 1962 he joined the Tata Group founded by Jamsetji Tata in 1868, after turning down a job with IBM on the advice of JRD Tata. He was first sent to Jamshedpur to work at Tata Steel. He worked on the floor along with other blue-collar employees, shoveling limestone and handling the blast furnaces. Although this original job was physically difficult, it helped Ratan Tata gain a better understanding and appreciation for the business and he gradually began taking on more responsibility.

In 1971, Tata became Director-in-Charge of the National Radio & Electronics Company Limited (Nelco) in order to help its struggling finances. Ratan has been the Chairman of Tata Sons, the promoter company of the Tata group, since 1991, when JRD stepped aside. He is also the Chairman of the major Tata companies, including Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Power, Tata Tea, Tata Chemicals, Indian Hotels and Tata Teleservices. During his tenure, the group’s revenues have grown nearly 13-fold. When he took charge of the group, 5 per cent of its turnover came from overseas. This rose to 20 per cent in 2002-03, mainly due to TCS emerging as a global force. With Tata Industries, Ratan Tata was able to transform the management and vision of the division and bring in significantly larger dividends. This renewed financial success helped bring the Tata Group to the New York Stock Exchange and gave the company even more international power and prestige. Ratan Tata continued to acquire different industries for the Tata Group, eventually purchasing the steel and aluminum producer, Corus Group as well as Jaguar and Land Rover brands from the Ford Company.

Ratan Tata's dream was to manufacture a car costing Rs 100,000 (1998: approx. US$2,200; today US$2,528). He realized his dream by launching the car in New Delhi Auto Expo on January 10, 2008, saying that "a promise is a promise," referring to his earlier promise to deliver this car at the said cost "Despite Mamata".

A shy man, Ratan rarely features in the society glossies, has lived for years in a book-crammed, dog-filled bachelor flat in Mumbai's Colaba district and is considered to be a gentleman extraordinaire.In an interview , Tata, a bachelor, admitted to being lonely and "too diffident to do anything about it". He keeps away from Mumbai's party circuit, dresses conservatively, and gets to work early in either his black Mercedes or Tata Indigo, sitting beside his driver. Who would have thought this understated man of impeccable manners, who readily sacrificed an airline venture at the altar of government policy, would upset the global corporate order to such an extent? And so often?

Mr Tata is associated with various organisations in India and overseas. He is the Chairman of two of the largest private-sector-promoted philanthropic trusts in India. He is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry, the National Hydrogen Energy Board, and the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council. He is the president of the Court of the Indian Institute of Science and Chairman of the Council of management of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He also serves on the UK Prime Minister’s Business Council for Britain and the International Advisory Council of Singapore’s Economic Development Board. He is also a member of the Global Business Council on HIV / Aids and the Programme Board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s India Aids initiative. He also serves on the board of directors of Fiat SpA and Alcoa. He is also on the international advisory boards of Mitsubishi Corporation, the American International Group, JP Morgan Chase and Rolls Royce.

The total revenue of Tata companies, taken together, was $70.8 billion (around Rs325,334 crore) in 2008-09, with 64.7 per cent of this coming from business outside India, and they employ around 357,000 people worldwide.

"Question the unquestionable" --Ratan Tata

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