Sunday, May 10, 2009
Ratan Naval Tata (born December 28, 1937, in Surat) is the present Chairman of the Tata Group, India's largest conglomerate founded by Jamsedji Tata and consolidated and expanded by later generations of his family.
Tata was born into the wealthy and famous Tata family of Mumbai. He was born to Soonoo and Naval Hormusji Tata. Ratan is the great grandson of Tata group founder Jamsetji Tata. Ratan's childhood was troubled, his parents separating in the mid-1940s, when he was about seven and his younger brother Jimmy was five. His mother moved out and both Ratan and his brother were raised by their grandmother Lady Navajbai.
Ratan Tata completed a BS degree in architecture with structural engineering from Cornell University in 1962, and the Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School in 1975. He joined the Tata Group in December 1962, after turning down a job with IBM on the advice of JRD Tata. He was first sent to Jamshedpur to work at Tata Steel. He worked on the floor along with other blue-collar employees, shoveling limestone and handling the blast furnaces. Ratan Tata, a shy man, rarely features in the society glossies, has lived for years in a book-crammed, dog-filled bachelor flat in Mumbai's Colaba district.
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 percent of the equity capital of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts endowed by members of the Tata family. The biggest two of these trusts are the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, which were created by the families of the sons of Jamshedji Tata. Since this shareholding belonged to Ratan's ancestors and these trusts were created by them, Ratan N. 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 N. Tata one of the richest people in the world.
In 1971, Ratan was appointed the Director-in-Charge of The National Radio & Electronics Company Limited (Nelco), a company that was in dire financial difficulty. Ratan suggested that the company invest in developing high-technology products, rather than in consumer electronics. J.R.D. was reluctant due to the historical financial performance of Nelco which had never even paid regular dividends. Further, Nelco had 2% market share in the consumer electronics market and a loss margin of 40% of sales when Ratan took over. Nonetheless, J. R. D. followed Ratan's suggestions. From 1972 to 1975, Nelco eventually grew to have a market share of 20%, and recovered its losses. In 1975 however, India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency, which led to an economic recession. This was followed by union problems in 1977, so even after demand improved, production did not keep up. Finally, the Tatas confronted the unions and, following a strike, a lockout was imposed for seven months. Ratan continued to believe in the fundamental soundness of Nelco, but the venture did not survive.
In 1977, Ratan was entrusted with Empress Mills, a textile mill controlled by the Tatas. When he took charge of the company, it was one of the few sick units in the Tata group. Ratan managed to turn it around and even declared a dividend. However, competition from less labour-intensive enterprises had made a number of companies unviable, including those like the Empress which had large labour contingents and had spent too little on modernisation. On Ratan's insistence, some investment was made, but it did not suffice. As the market for coarse and medium cotton cloth (which was all that the Empress produced) turned adverse, the Empress began to accumulate heavier losses. Bombay House, the Tata headquarters, was unwilling to divert funds from other group companies into an undertaking which would need to be nursed for a long time. So, some Tata directors, chiefly Nani Palkhivala, took the line that the Tatas should liquidate the mill, which was finally closed down in 1986. Ratan was severely disappointed with the decision, and in a later interview with the Hindustan Times would claim that the Empress had needed just Rs 50 lakhs to turn it around.
In 1981, Ratan was named director of Tata Industries, the Group's other holding company, where he became responsible for transforming it into the Group's strategy think-tank and a promoter of new ventures in high-technology businesses.
In 1991, he took over as group chairman from J.R.D. Tata, pushing out the old guard and ushering in younger managers. Since then, he has been instrumental in reshaping the fortunes of the Tata Group, which today has the largest market capitalization of any business house on the Indian Stock Market.
Under Ratan's guidance, Tata Consultancy Services went public and Tata Motors was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1998, Tata Motors introduced his brainchild, the Tata Indica.
On January 31 2007, under the chairmanship of Ratan Tata, Tata Sons successfully acquired Corus Group, an Anglo-Dutch steel and aluminium producer. With the acquisition, Ratan Tata became a celebrated personality in Indian corporate business culture. The merger created the fifth largest steel producing entity in the world.
On March 26, 2008, Tata Motors, under Ratan Tata, bought Jaguar & Land Rover from Ford Motor Company. The two iconic British brands, Jaguar and Land Rover, were acquired for £1.15 billion ($2.3 billion).
Ratan Tata's dream fulfilled, His Tata Nano Car 2008. Ratan Tata's dream was to manufacture a car costing Rs 100,000 (1998: approx. US$2,200; today US$2,000 US$2,528). He realized his dream by launching the car in New Delhi Auto Expo on January 10, 2008. Three models of the Tata Nano were announced, and Ratan Tata delivered on his commitment to developing a car costing only 1 lakh rupees, adding that "a promise is a promise," referring to his earlier promise to deliver this car at the said cost. Recently when his plant for Nano production was obstructed by Mamta Banerjee, his decision of going out of West Bengal was warmly welcomed.