“Ups and downs in life are very important to keep us going, because a straight line even in an E.C.G means we are not alive.” – Ratan Tata
“None can destroy iron, but its rust can. Likewise, none can destroy a person, but his own mindset can.” – Ratan Tata
Ratan Naval Tata is an Indian industrialist, philanthropist, and a former chairman of Tata Sons. He was also chairman of Tata Group, from 1990 to 2012, and again, as interim chairman, from October 2016 through February 2017, and continues to head its charitable trusts. He is the recipient of two of the highest civilian awards of India, the Padma Vibhushan (2008) and Padma Bhushan (2000). He is well known for his business ethics and philanthropy.
He is the present chairman of Tata Sons and therefore, Tata Group. He is also the chairman of major Tata companies such as Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Power, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Tea, Tata Chemicals, The Indian Hotels Company and Tata Teleservices.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on December 28, 1937 in Surat, India, to Naval Tata and Sonoo. Naval Tata was the adopted son of the Jamsetji Tata’s younger son Ratanji Tata. Jamsetji Tata was the founder of the Tata Group of Companies. Ratan Tata has a brother, Jimmy, and a step-brother, Noel Tata.
When he was ten, his parents, got separated and thereafter, he and his brother were brought up by his grandmother, Navajbai Tata.
He received his early education from the Campion School, Mumbai and finished his schooling from the Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai. In 1962, he obtained his B.S. in architecture with structural engineering from Cornell University, U.S.A.
Later he got enrolled at the Harvard Business School and completed an Advanced Management Program in 1975.
Ratan Tata studied at Cornell and Harvard universities and started his career by working in the textile divisions of the Tata group. After learning the ropes of the business and showing his potential as a leader, he was given the responsibility of managing the overseas operations of the computer and hotel businesses. It was here that his talent got noticed. In 1991, JRD Tata chose him as his successor despite strong opposition by the senior executives in the company. From 1991 to 2012, Ratan Tata grew the Tata group from Rs. 10,000 cr to Rs. 130,000 cr, added 3 more companies and acquired reputed foreign companies. Tata Steel acquired European steel major, Corus, which was a bigger company than itself. Tata motors acquired Jaguar Land Rover which is a reputed British company which makes luxury cars. Also, Ratan Tata is responsible for making the cheapest car in the world at $2500, a feat that none of the established companies have been able to accomplish even till now. Ratan Tata was a magical leader for the company. He integrated the loosely tied and diversified companies together.
In 1962, he started his career with the Tata Steel division where he shoveled stones and worked with the furnaces along with the blue-collar employees. It was a difficult job and helped him gain a better understanding and respect for his family business.
In 1971, he was appointed as the Director-in-Charge of the National Radio & Electronics Company Limited (NELCO) in order to help its struggling finances. He worked towards building a better consumer electronics division but the economic recession and union strikes prevented him from achieving success.
In 1977, he was moved to Empress Mills, a struggling textile mill within the Tata Group. He proposed a plan for the mill but the other Tata executives rejected it and the mill was shut down. Later, he was moved to the Tata Industries.
In 1991, J.R.D. Tata appointed him as the new Chairman of the Tata Group of Companies. This decision came under scrutiny following objections from other executives of the company and questions were raised regarding his ability to run the corporation.
But he succeeded in improving the financial success of the industries and expanded the growth of the organization under his leadership. He transformed the management and vision of the division, and managed to bring in significantly larger dividends.
He also became a member of the Prime Minister's Council on Trade and Industry. He served on the advisory board of the RAND's center for Asia Pacific Policy and is also an active participant in India's AIDS initiative program.
He also holds the membership of the international advisory board of the Mitsubishi Cooperation, the American International Group, JP Morgan Chase and Booze Allen Hamilton.
On his 75th birthday, i.e, on 28 December 2012 he resigned from the post of Chairman of Tata Group and was succeeded by Cyrus Mistry, managing director of Shapoorji Pallonji Group. Even after retirement, he is still an active businessman and invests in upcoming promising business ventures
As the Chairman of Tata Group, he was able to achieve international recognition and prestige for his company. The astounding financial success of the company brought the Tata Group to the New York Stock Exchange and under his supervision the corporation became a global brand by acquiring many companies including Tetley, Jaguar Land Rover, and Corus.
He was instrumental in the conception and building of Tata Nano and Tata Indica cars.
He is also a notable philanthropist and more than 65% of his share is invested in charitable trusts. One of the primary goals of his life has been to raise the quality of life of Indians along with human development.
Awards & Achievements
In 2000, he was conferred the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honor awarded by the Government of India.
In 2004, he received the ‘Medal of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay’ from the Government of Uruguay.
In 2005, he was conferred the ‘International Distinguished Achievement Award’ by the B'nai B'rith International.
In 2007, he was conferred the Honorary Fellowship of The London School of Economics and Political Science.
In 2008, he was awarded the ‘Padma Vibhusan’, the second highest civilian honor awarded by the Government of India.
In 2009, he received the ‘Award of 'Grand Officer' of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic’ from the Government of Italy.
In 2009, he was awarded the title of Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, United Kingdom.
In 2010, he won the ‘Oslo Business for Peace Award’ presented by the Business for Peace Foundation.
In 2014, he was conferred the ‘Honorary Knight Grand Cross of The Order of the British Empire’.
Sweet revenge on Ford
Ratan Tata and his team faced "humiliation" when they went to sell the group's fledgling car business to Ford in 1999, but came back to "do a big favour" just nine years later by taking over the American giant's marquee brands Jaguar and Land Rover.
"They told us 'you do not know anything, why did you start the passenger car division at all'. They said they will do us a favour by buying our car division," a Tata Group veteran said, while recalling a meeting of Ratan Tata and other top executives with Ford officials in Detroit in 1999.
The Tata Motors team decided to return to New York the same evening and Ratan Tata, then the group chairman, was sombre throughout the 90-minute flight, said Pravin Kadle, who was part of the team at that time and now heads Tata Capital.
"This was in 1999 and come 2008, the same Ford's JLR was bought by us. Ford chairman Bill Ford thanked Tata, saying 'you are doing us a big favour by buying JLR'," Kadle said, to a thunderous applause at an awards function on Thursday night.
He was speaking, mostly in Marathi, after receiving the YB Chavan National Award 2014 on behalf of Ratan Tata, who is now Chairman Emeritus of the over $100-billion group.
The poor response to its maiden hatchback Indica had driven Tata Motors to sell the car business, within a year of its debut in 1998, to Ford Motor.
"Some people advised chairman Ratan Tata to sell the passenger car division following the poor response it got post launch. Ford officials came down to our headquarters Bombay House and evinced interest in our car business.
"We were called to Detroit for discussions and I accompanied the chairman. For nearly three hours, we discussed the sell-off with Ford officials but were meted out humiliating treatment," said Kadle, who played a major role in the turnaround and growth of Tata Motors.
During his tenure at Tata Motors, Kadle was part of the senior leadership team that managed the cross-border acquisitions like Daewoo of South Korea, Incat Technologies of the UK and eventually of Jaguar-Land Rover of the UK.
Nine years after the 'humiliation', the clock turned a full circle and the salt-to-software conglomerate humbled the mighty Ford -- which was on the verge of bankruptcy after the 2008 global financial meltdown -- by taking over the iconic Jaguar Land-Rover brands for $2.3 billion, Kadle recalled.
Within a few years of the buyout, JLR made a dramatic turnaround and is the mainstay of Tata Motors' finances now. Kadle, who has been with the group for 21 years, said the driving factor for Tata in the Indica project was to launch the country's first indigenously designed car from scratch.
The ambitious car was not a commercial success in first few years and it was suggested to sell the passenger vehicles vertical, Kadle said.
Ratan Tata’s Assets
Ratan Tata owns a house in Mumbai (India) where he resides. He bought this luxury house in the year 2015. This house is estimated to be worth around Rs. 150 Crores. He owns multiple properties across India.
Ratan Tata owns multiple cars, few of which are the best luxury cars in the world. He owns Cadillac XLR, Mercedes Benz, Range Rover, Honda Civic, Maserati Quattroporte, Chrysler Sebring, Ferrari, Buick Super 8, Jaguar and Tata.
Interesting facts about Ratan Tata
- Ratan Tata wanted to marry a girl who he fell in love with, while working in New York. But, destiny played its role, as he had to relocate back to India to be with his ailing grandmother and the girl refused to relocate with him.
- Tata has a lot of love for animals. The tradition is that the headquarters of Tata Sons, has a kennel for stray dogs, which lets them in during rainy weather.
- When Ratan Tata joined Tata in the beginning, he was given the job of managing the blast furnace and shoving limestone. His first job was managing operations on the shop floor of Tata Steel in 1961.
- It was because of Tata’s pragmatic business skills, he led merger and acquisitions with multiple business conglomerates that sky rocketed Tata’s revenues.
- Ratan Tata earned his ethics from his grandmother who raised him post his parents separation. He learnt to stand up with dignity at every adverse situation from her. He owes the biggest moral lessons of his life to his grandmother.
- In 2009, he envisioned Tata Nano car, the cheapest car of India worth Rs 1 lakh and rolled it out in the market. Tata Nano scaled up Tata’s competency at global level.
Ratan Tata is truly a man of ethics and principles. The biggest lesson he has taught to us is that no matter what happens, never compromise on your principles and ethics.