Ratan Tata walks into the sunset today

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To dedicate full time to philanthropy

Ratan Naval Tata formally retires today as he turns 75.

The man who projected a new face of India Inc to the world, catapulted the Tata business group to a $100 billion conglomerate and made several successful strides into international markets in his two-decade-long tenure as chairman, is stepping down.

As promised, he is handing over the baton to Cyrus P Mistry, whose family holds 18 per cent in Tata Sons, the holding company through which the entire Tata business empire is run.

He will bid adieu to Bombay House, the Tata headquarters in the heart of the city, and move to the third floor of the stone-clad Elphinstone Building overlooking the Horniman Circle garden, a stone’s throw away.

As reported by Financial Chronicle, after his retirement, Tata has decided to move the offices of the top Tata trusts — Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust, Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and some more — from Bombay House, Ewart House and others to the heritage Elphinstone Building owned by the group. Tata will give full time to philanthropy and social causes.

Tata, who’s been with the business group for more than 50 years, the first 30 of them just as another official, can be credited with creating the most formidable group of the country with presence in diverse fields like steel, automobiles, power, chemicals and IT, among others. It has a turnover of over $100 billion. The Tata name itself is India’s most formidable brand and has the highest recall among Indians.

The year when he assumed charge of the group was also the year when the Indian economy had the first breeze of liberalisation. That spurred the Tatas to go all out to expand, not only in India, but also abroad. Today their presence is worldwide following top acquisitions.

If Ratan Tata’s acquisition of FMCG company Tetley in 2000 initiated the culture of M&A in India, the high-end acquisitions of steel major Corus and luxury car maker Jaguar and Land Rover in the UK, gave birth to India’s first own multinational. He inspired Indian companies to believe in themselves and be a part of the global business culture where M&As played an important role. The Aditya Birla group’s Hindalco acquired the US-based Novellis within a year of the Tata acquisition of Corus.

Ratan Tata’s reign presented a blend of traditional and modern business cultures. He never went overboard and never rested on his laurels. When an opportunity arose, he seized it.

The only time his ambitions were thwarted was when he wanted to take the Tatas back into civil aviation.

But he visualised and created another business opportunity – with the launch of the smallest and least expensive car in the world. Even in this, he was held back for a while when a half-completed factory in Singur in West Bengal had to be abandoned, and he was forced to start afresh in Gujarat to make the Nano.

He was in the forefront when the Indian government initiated ultra mega power projects (UMPP) for electricity generation. Tatas got the first such project. Their Mundra plant is the only UMPP operational today. Tatas have been running the plant in the face of losses -- just to honour a commitment to the nation, a senior Tata Power official recently told this reporter.

Ratan Tata can also take legitimate credit for making the group’s flagship IT company, Tata Consultancy Services, India’s second largest company in terms of market capitalisation. TCS is India’s number one IT company with a strong client record, getting stronger every passing day.

Tata will hand over the reins to the 44-year-old successor Cyrus P Mistry, marking a generational change in the group. The board of directors of Tata Sons on December 14 announced the appointment of Mistry as chairman after Ratan Tata retires on December 28. The board conferred on Ratan Tata the honorary title of chairman emeritus.



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