Ratan Tata has been in the news all the time and more so recently with the recent success they had in winning over Corus. What makes this man special? Is it the size of the businesses he oversees? It is the number of areas the TATA group has been able to diversify into? Is it the amount of value he's creating for his shareholders? What is the story about this man that makes him so special and likeable?
Ratan Naval Tata was born on the 28th of Dec 1937. In 1962 he graduated with a degree in Archietecture and Structural Engineering from Cornell University. He came back to India and was sent to work on the shop floor in Tata Steel for 3 yrs. How many of you remember a TV set called Nelco Blue Diamond? Nelco (National Radio and Electronics Company) was his next destination where he was made a Director.
Ratan completed a Management program in Harvard and around that time Emergency was imposed in India which led to a lockout of Nelco. From here Tata went to work in the textile business of the Tata's which had mixed results. The main reason for this was attributed to the labor problems in Bombay then under the astute leadership of Datta Samant, a strong trade union leader.
In 1991 Ratan Tata took over as group chairman of the TATA group and this period saw TATA consultancy services going public and the foray of TATA motors into the passenger car market. The TATA Indica was an ambitious project because no Indian company had designed cars before. The easiest way was to find a foreign partner and manufacture cars under a JV. Ratan chose to take the path that was never travelled.
TATA Indica was launched on Indian roads in 1998 and it met initially with a lot of criticism and was also plagued with defects and other running problems. But to the company's credits everything was sorted out in a short span of time and it's one of the best selling cars of the country today. This was followed by the supremely successful TATA Indigo which still sells like hot cakes. The TATA's are all set to launch a luxurious version of this car named Indigo XL.
Ratan also led TATA to Korea and acquired Daewoo motors heavy vehicles division. TATA Tea acquired Tetley. Tata Teleservices acquired Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) when the Government divested it's stakes in it. Corus was a tough bargain because CSN stepped in and upped the ante. But Ratan says they bought it for a price which was within what they had decided and it surely is a victory for the group.
Ratan Tata is know for his integrity in business and the values that he holds dear to him. An intensely private bachelor, he loves dogs, flying, electronics, technology and cars. Rumor has it that he drives a TATA Indica to work in Mumbai. His next big adventure according to him is to fly the F16 for which he's been invited. A big cheer for the man who makes India proud, who serves as a role model for countless indian and who strongly believes that corporates should give back something to the country.
This interview with Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN on being conferred the 'Indian of the year' is a must watch.