Sophisticated and tall Ratan Tata has a very pleasing personality and his humility puts him in a special class of men. A very private person, he has never flaunted his wealth and lives in an elegant flat rather than a mansion. Valuing ethics above everything else, he is a man of his word and upholder of the rich Tata tradition of charity and National spirit.
He has held on to his high values and standards, despite all odds and in very trying circumstances. The resolve of Ratan Tata in the face of ghastly terrorist attack on the Taj hotel and other properties in Mumbai and the courage/compassion shown by the hotel employees, without regard for their own lives, speaks volumes about the rich tradition this man has unflinchingly upheld like a rock. The rebuilding of the hotel property, the compensation and life long employment for the kin of the employees who lost their lives and the renewed vigor with which the clientele has responded in returning to the Taj in greater numbers after repairs is a testimony to the faith people have in the group.
Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the business conglomerate since 1991 and Chairman of most of the Tata Group Companies, Mr.RatanTata received a B.S. degree in Architecture and Structural Engineering from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York in 1962, and completed an Advanced Management Program at the Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University from 1974 to 1975.
As a student he was living on his modest allowance and when he returned to India in 1962 after turning down a job with IBM on the advice of JRD Tata, he was sent to Jamshedpur to work on the shop floor at Tata Steel with other blue-collar employees, shoveling limestone and handling the blast furnace.
In 1971, he was appointed the Director of Nelco, with losses of 40% and barely 2% share of the consumer electronics market. However, just when he turned it around (from 2% to 25% market share), emergency was declared. A weak economy and labor issues compounded the problem and Nelco was quickly near collapse again.
For his next assignment, in 1977 he was asked to turn around the sick Empress Mills, which he did. However, he was refused a Rupees 50 lakh investment required to make the textile unit competitive. Empress Mills floundered and was finally closed in 1986.
In 1981, JRD Tata stepped down as Tata Industries chairman, naming Ratan as his successor. He was heavily criticized for lacking experience in running a company of the scale of Tata Industries and faced a very stiff resistance from the old guard of Russi Mody, Drabari Sheth and Ajit Kelkar, who were used to running the separate group companies under their charge as personal fiefdoms.
It took him 10 years of his productive life to free the group from the stronghold of the old satraps and set a new direction for the business, but he never gave up.
1991, he was appointed group chairman of the Tata group.
As group chairman, he has been responsible for converting “the corporate commonwealth” of different Tata-affiliated companies into a cohesive group.
One of his achievements includes designing and developing India’s first indigenous car – the “Indica“ which has been recognized as the most improved car in the Industry and has emerged as one of the strongest brands to have been created off late. He is also responsible for transforming Tata Motors Ltd. into a Group strategy think-tank and a promoter of new ventures in high technology businesses.
He also pushed for the development of the Rupees 1 lakh car ‘Nano’ despite tremendous odds faced in shifting the plant from West Bengal to Gujarat, huge financial losses and time delays.
He is widely credited for the success of the Tata Group of companies, especially after the liberalization of controls after the 1990s.
He has been responsible for the acquisition of Tetley Tea, Jaguar Land Rover Motors and Corus Steel, which have turned Tatas from a largely India-centric company into a global business, with 65% revenues coming from abroad.
He is the Chairman of the Investment Commission set up by the Government of India. Mr. Tata is also a Member of several international boards/committees. He has served as a Director and member of the central board of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as well as of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry.
He was honored by the Government of India with the Padma Bhushan in January 2000 and awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree in Business Administration and Technology from the Ohio State University and the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok respectively.
Following the norms set by him, Ratan Tata is set to retire in December 2012 to be succeeded by Cyrus Mistry, the 42-year-old son of Pallonji Mistry and managing director of Shapoorji Pallonji Group.
After having ensured in the last few years that the group companies have outstanding young leaders at their helm ,in his last year as the Chairman, he is planning to place women achievers to head different businesses.