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Ratan - The Tata who turned the Bharat-centric business into a global conglomerate

Niranjan Bhombe

Niranjan Bhombe

28 December 2022

"Ratan Tata is widely regarded as one of the most humble philanthropic entrepreneurs, and one of...."

.....Bharat’s greatest Sons. Born in 1937 in British India, Ratan Tata is the son of Naval Tata, the adopted son of Ratanji Tata. Ratan Tata’s parents divorced when he was 10 years old, and he was subsequently adopted by his grandmother Navajbai Tata. In 1955 Ratan impressed his teachers at Riverdale Country School in New York City into writing that “Ratan’s charming and unassuming character is sure to bring him success. We are sure that if he continues to develop his charm and intelligence to the full, he will have a happy and useful life”.

Despite growing up in a luxurious home and with qualifications including a degree in architecture and structural engineering from Cornell University and the Harvard Advanced Management Program to his name, Ratan Tata started at Tata Sons on the shop floor of Telco (now Tata Motors) in 1962 and then Tata Steel, where he shoveled limestone and was a team member in the blast furnaces. In the 1970s he joined the management of Tata Sons, his first success was turning around Group Company National Radio and Electronics (NELCO) only to see it collapse during an economic slowdown.

By 1981 he was Chairman of Tata Industries and heir apparent to JRD, becoming Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, from 1991 until his retirement in 2012. In 1991 when he settled into his role, he faced stiff resistance from many companies’ heads, some of whom had spent decades in their respective companies and rose to become very powerful and influential due to the freedom to operate under JRD Tata. He began replacing them by setting a retirement age, and then made individual companies report operationally to the group office and made each contribute some of their profit to build and use the Tata group brand.

Ratan Tata during his tenure as the Chairman was labeled as a visionary, under his guidance the company became known for its ‘reverse colonialism’ as it bought tea firm Tetley for US$407 million in 2000, Anglo-Dutch Corus Group for US$12 billion in 2007 and Jaguar Land Rover for US$2.3 billion in 2008. All this turned Tata from a largely India-centric group into a global business, with over 65% revenues coming from operations and sales in over 100 countries. The Tata Group now operates in more than 100 countries across six continents, and has companies in every area of society, including energy, automotive, engineering and information technology. In 2020–21, the revenue of Tata companies was US$103 billion, with more than 800,000 employees. The 29 publicly listed Tata enterprises have a combined market capitalization of US$242 billion.

Ratan Tata is one of the most generous philanthropists; his commitment to improving lives and prospects of others is displayed by the numerous donations he has made to various educational institutions. Under Ratan Tata’s stewardship the Tata trust has worked with University of New South Wales Faculty of Engineering to develop capacitive deionization to provide improved water for challenged areas, endowed a $28 million Tata Scholarship Fund that will allow Cornell University to provide financial aid to undergraduate students from Bharat and also formed the MIT Tata Center of Technology and Design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a mission to address the challenges of resource-constrained communities, with an initial focus on Bharat. In 2010 Harvard Business School named the executive center for mid-career executive program as Tata Hall, after Ratan Tata (AMP '75), chairman emeritus of Tata Sons.

Ratan Tata received the Padma Bhushan in 2000 and Padma Vibhushan in 2008, the third and second highest civilian honors awarded by the Government of Bharat. In 2021 he received the highest civilian award of Assam 'Assam Baibhav' for his exceptional contribution towards furthering cancer care in Assam. Ratan Tata has received numerous honorary doctrates from world renowned universities from Bharat, USA, and Europe. He has also received honorary citizen award from Singapore Government, Grand Condor of the Order of the rising sun from the Government of Japan, Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of British Empire from Queen Elizabeth and Commander of the Legion of Honor from the Government of France.

Through his life’s work Ratan Tata has created one of the worlds most dynamic and powerful companies, but more importantly, enriched the lives of millions of Indians through his philanthropic endeavors. He has spent his lifetime for the betterment and affordability of Technology and services, education of the uneducated and uplifting the rural places in Bharat. He is truly a Mega Icon, and the face of positive capitalism for the world. And on his Birthday we are so very thankful that he can continue his mission and be a ray of light in these uncertain times.

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