Ratan Tata Biography
Ratan Tata is undoubtedly one of the leading, most respected, and well known Indian industrialists and a former Tata Sons chairman. He was also Chairman of Tata Group of companies, which is perhaps the largest Indian conglomerate, from 1990 to 2012 and again as interim Chairman from October 2016 through February 2017. He continues to lead its charitable trusts.
Tata group of companies include 30 companies across ten verticals including Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Chemicals, Tata Consumer Products, Titan, Tata Capital, Tata Power, Tata Advanced Systems, Indian Hotels, and Tata Communications. Besides his professional achievements, due to his business ethics and philanthropic works, he was awarded two of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Vibhushan (2008) and the Padma Bhushan (2000).
Ratan Tata: Early life and education
Tata was born in Mumbai, on 28th December 1937, in one of the wealthiest families in India. He is the son of Naval Tata. His biological grandfather, Hormusji Tata, belonged to the broader Tata family; therefore, Ratan was a Tata by birth. He had a disturbing childhood as his parents separated when he was 10; hence, he was raised by his grandmother Navajbai Tata who had formerly adopted him. He was born and brought up in the lap of luxury at Tata Palace.
He did his schooling from Campion School, Mumbai, followed by Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai, and at Bishop Cotton School in Shimla. Later in 1955, he graduated from Riverdale Country School in New York City. In 1959, he earned a degree in Architecture from Cornell University, and in 1975, he pursued an Advance Management course from Harvard Business School.
Ratan Tata: Career and achievements
With the Tata Steel division in 1962, Tata began his career, and there he worked along with the blue-collar employees shoveling stones and working with the furnaces. It helped him gain a better understanding and respect for the family business, which played a crucial role in forming his character as an honest, hardworking, and humble individual.
In 1971, he was appointed the Director-in-Charge of the National Radio & Electronics Company Limited (NELCO), aiming to help recover its struggling finances. This eventually was unsuccessful due to the economic recession and union strikes.
Later in 1991, he went on to become the Chairman of the Tata Group of Companies. Though, many objections were made from other executives regarding this decision, questioning his ability to run the corporation. But through his vision and capabilities as a leader, he managed to succeed in improving the companies’ financial success and expanded the organization’s growth. He also focused on transforming the management and vision of the division and managed to bring in significantly larger dividends. As a result, under Ratan Tata’s stewardship, Tata Consultancy Services went public and brought international recognition and prestige.
The financial success and the potential of the Tata Group earned it a place in the New York Stock Exchange. Under his leadership, the corporation from a largely India-centric group transformed into a global business by acquiring many companies like Tetley, Jaguar Land Rover, and Corus. It enabled the corporation to gain over 65% of its revenues from operations and sales in over 100 countries. During his 21 years of leadership at Tata Group, the revenues grew over 40 times, and profit, over 50 times than before.
During his tenure, the company witnessed the launch of India’s first made in India car, ‘Tata Indica’. Moreover, he was an instrument in the conception and building of ‘Tata Nano’ car as well. Tata has also served on the boards of Fiat SpA and Alcoa and holds the membership of the international advisory board of the Mitsubishi Cooperation, the American International Group, JP Morgan Chase, Rolls Royce, and Booze Allen Hamilton.
In 2000, Tata was honored with the Padma Bhushan award by the government of India. In 2004, he was given the ‘Medal of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay’ from the Government of Uruguay, he was conferred the International Distinguished Achievement Award’ by the B’nai B’rith International in 2005, the Honorary Fellowship of The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2007, in 2009, he was awarded the Honorary’ Knight Commander’ of the Order of the British Empire, United Kingdom, the ‘Oslo Business for Peace Award’ presented by the Business for Peace Foundation in 2014 and ‘Honorary Knight Grand Cross of The Order of the British Empire’ in 2014.
He is also an active philanthropist, having more than 65% of his share is invested in charitable trusts. One of his primary goals in life has been, to improve the quality of life of Indians along with human development.
At the age of 75, Ratan Tata stepped down from his executive powers in the Tata group on 28th December 2012, appointing as his successor, Cyrus Mistry, managing director of Shapoorji Pallonji Group. Though he was removed as the Chairman in 2016, and on 12th January 2017, Natarajan Chandrasekaran was named as the Chairman of Tata Sons. Even after retirement, Tata is an active businessman and invests in promising business ventures. He has his personal savings invested in many successful Indian ventures such as Snapdeal, Teabox, CashKaro.com, etc. Besides these, he has small investments in companies like Ola cabs, Xiaomi, American Express, Nestaway, etc.
Ratan Tata: Philanthropy
Tata is known to be a supporter of education, medicine, rural development, and considered a leading philanthropist not just in India but also on a global scale. Tata showed support to the University of New South Wales Faculty of Engineering to develop capacitive deionization and provide improved water in the challenged areas. Moreover, the Tata Education and Development Trust provided a $28 million Tata Scholarship Fund to provide financial aid to undergraduate India students at Cornell University.
In 2010, Tata Group and Tata charities donated $50 million for the construction of an executive center at Harvard Business School (HBS), which has been named ‘Tata Hall’, after Ratan Tata. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has donated $35 million to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for facility research in cognitive systems and autonomous vehicles, which is the largest ever donation ever given by a company to CMU.
In 2014, Tata gave $950 million to the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT B) to develop design and engineering principles suited to the needs of people and communities with limited resources. Furthermore, Tata Group formed the MIT Tata Center of Technology and Design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to address the challenges of resource-constrained communities, initially focusing on India.
The story of Ratan Tata is inspiring, thought-provoking, and works as a reminder of how monetary pleasures lose meaning when a person is determined to make a change in the world. Ratan Tata is a bachelor and maintains a down to earth approach towards life. The uber-successful businessman drives unremarkable Tata sedan. Having most of his share invested in charitable trusts and through his pioneering ideas and positive outlook, Tata stands tall amongst the most respected businessmen of the world.
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