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Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata

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Published by: api-3740859 on Oct 15, 2008
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03/18/2014

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Ratan Tata: Tending it like a TataBarely a decade and a half ago, when Ratan N Tata took over as chairman of Tata Sons,the holding company of the Tata Group, people in the markets and in management circlesdismissed him as a person of no consequence. When he sold off Tata Oil Mills Companyin 1993 people said he had no stomach for competition. When he exited ACC, India'sleading cement company, people said he was frittering awayhis heritage. When he decided to build India's first indigenous car, analysts predictedruin.Ratan Tata has proved all his critics wrong. And how!Tata is one of Indian industry's most respected business leaders. The shy, somewhatreticent chairman has taken the group's annual revenues to $21.7 billion, or more thanseven 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 competitiveworld. Tata companies have made aggressive strides in India and abroad, leading the rushfor overseas acquisitions by Indian groups, and ramping up market shares at home.Under his leadership, the Tata group has emerged as India's largest businessconglomerate, a modern, unified organisation ready for the challenges of a youngeconomy and increasingly global marketplace. He has also ensured that while the groupmetamorphoses to meet the volatile demands of a borderless international market, itstradition of business ethics and commitment to society remain intact, and even becomestronger.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. Theimmediate challenge Tata faced was to galvanise this amorphous entity to face thechallenges 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 UnitedStates with a degree in architecture from Cornell University and a brief assignment withthe 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'seconomic 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 itsmanufacturing thrust, the younger Tata had anticipated the opportunities in theinformation-based industries.
Strengthening an inheritence
Ratan Tata quietly but firmly began to assert the group's authority on the individualcompanies. He strengthened the unified brand image of the group. A major restructuringeffort was undertaken, excess baggage was dropped and businesses were rationalised andconsolidated. The effort ended with a leaner portfolio of 93 companies, focused on sevenidentified 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 notonly in India but across the globe in sectors as diverse as steel, automobiles, chemicalsand hospitality. His mandate for group companies was clear: shape up, or ship out; beamong 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) andhospitality (Indian Hotels), and the Tata name is reaching new geographies through anaggressive 'internationalisation' effort. The group now has a presence in 40 countries andexports 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, inall locations and at all times.Recent years have seen the group make rapid strides in itsM&Aand JV strategy acrossthe 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 toimprove its competitive position.As he drives the group's expansion plans in other geographies, Ratan Tata is encouragingTata 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 Tajgroup'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

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