The Business World's “Man of the 90’s”, the dignified but fiercely competitive individual who was once voted "India's most perfect gentleman". The visionary whose company’s products touch our lives in some way or the other. The man is Ratan Tata, the Chief of the largest business group in India - The House of Tata's.


    Ratan was born on December 28, 1937 to Naval and Soonoo Tata. Ratan's childhood was not exceptional, as his parents divorced when he was just seven. But his grandmother ensured that he never missed his mother. She showered Ratan and his brother Jimmy with love and at the same time trained them to be disciplined and gentlemanly. Even today, Ratan attributes his success to the excellent upbringing by his grandmother. At the same time, Ratan was very close to his mother, Soonoo. Soonoo had remarried, but remained in close touch with her sons.

    Having completed his schooling at Bombay's famous Campion School, Ratan moved to the United States to study Structural Engineering at the prestigious Cornell University. After his graduation, Ratan wanted to stay back in the US and make a career for himself. But his grandmother persuaded him to come back and join the family business. This was the turning point in Ratan's life. Even though at that time, he was reluctant to return to India, today he looks back and acknowledges that it was the right decision.

    Once back in India, Ratan joined TELCO (today Tata Motors), which was into manufacturing of automobiles. Soon, he was shifted to TISCO, the flagship company of the Tata's, which was into the manufacture of Iron and Steel. He worked at TISCO's plant at Jamshedpur for six years, during which time he learned both, the technical aspects of the company’s products, and the corporate values of the Tata Group.

    In 1968, Ratan was shifted back to Bombay to assume a more senior position within the group. However, everything was not fine. Ratan was given charge of two sick companies in the Tata group, Nelco and Central India Textiles. It was a difficult experience for Ratan, however Ratan turned around both the companies within a few years. This experience strengthened Ratan immensely, and he was now ready to take on larger responsibilities. He had also left an enduring mark on the seniors in the Tata's Management Team.
His perseverance and hard work bore fruit when he was made Chairman of Tata Industries in 1981. He took over from JRD Tata, who was now 78 years old, and was slowly moving towards retirement. This move created waves in the world of business. Ratan was being hailed as the heir apparent of the Tata Empire. But Ratan's period of victory was also laced with grief; his mother was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Ratan immediately flew with her to New York for her treatment. He stayed with her for four months, till she lost the battle to the ravaging disease.

    During this period, Ratan had plenty of time to think. And look at various avenues for the Tata Group to move with the times. The once dominant and monopolist group was now facing stiff competition in all spheres of business. Ratan had sensed the consumer revolution. He knew he had to convert the Tata group into a highly competitive and diversified group of companies. He thought out a process, calling it the 1983 Tata Strategic Plan. This was the turning point in the Tata's heritage of more than 100 years, a group that had stuck on to generic businesses without diversification. With JRD Tata's support, Ratan diversified into contemporary industries like telecommunication, software, biotechnology etc.

    At the same time, he created an intense culture of competitiveness within the Tata Group. Slowly the laid back attitude of the employees and management changed. In 1991, JRD retired and named Ratan as the Chairman of the entire Tata Group. This move was well accepted by the business community and within the Tata group. Their faith was not misplaced as Ratan began to grow the Tata group to dizzy heights, with innovation and customer value as the key words. He was instrumental in creating the first totally indigenous Indian Car, Sierra, Estate and Indica.

    Tata also was a forerunner in the emerging software field through his pet project the Tata Consultancy Services. Both these ventures put the Tata's back into the top echelons in the Indian and International economy. The existing businesses were improved. They bounced back into market leadership positions in spite of intense competition. Ratan's radical change in the group’s philosophy was questioned by the senior management team. Eventually, these very changes were commended and lauded.

    Ratan's tenure at the helm was not filled with high points, but loaded with problems too. The Union problem in Tata's Pune plant in the 1990s, turned ugly and threatened to tarnish the reputation of the Tata Empire, which was built over a century. But Ratan has stood up and fought. And Won. Over the years, Ratan Tata won many such tough situations, and carried on the legacy of his predecessors capably.

    Under his leadership, the Tata group has grown tremendously Ratan Tata has his own capital in Tata Sons., the holding company of the group. Though his share is just about 1%, his personal holding is valued at US$1 Billion. About 66% of the equity capital of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts endowed by members of the Tata family. Since this shareholding belonged to Ratan’s ancestors and these trusts were created by them, Ratan Tata has an effective right over them. If all the value of this is added, his Net Worth is estimated at around US$50 Billion, making Ratan Tata one of the richest people in the world.

    On January 31, 2007, under the chairmanship of Ratan Tata, Tata Sons successfully acquired Corus Group, an Anglo-Dutch steel and aluminium producer. The merger created the fifth largest steel producing entity in the world. On March 26, 2008, Tata Motors bought Jaguar & Land Rover, the two iconic British brands, from Ford Motor Company. Ratan Tata's dream was to manufacture a car costing just Rs 100,000. He realized his dream by launching the Tata Nano car in New Delhi Auto Expo on January 10, 2008.

    Ratan lives a simple life without the hype that would normally go with a person of his statue. His vision to steer each of the Tata group companies towards growth and profits has come true.

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