Business big shot: Ratan Tata of the Tata Group


March 2, 2009

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When big decisions have to be made, Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, walks his dogs along the Mumbai foreshore by his beachfront home.

Ratan Tata The animals are likely to be in for a lot of exercise over the coming weeks. The 72-year-old is in talks with the British Government about a rescue loan for Jaguar Land Rover. There have been huge layoffs at one of his other British acquisitions, Corus, the former British Steel. He is also about to roll out Tata’s Nano car in India and unveil a European version here.

He is a great-grandson of Jamsetji Tata, the patriarch who founded the family business in 1850, which was one of the first in India to offer workers pensions and accident compensation. Ratan Tata was brought up by his grandmother, after his parents divorced when he was aged seven.

When he left school, he also left India — to study architecture and structural engineering at Cornell University. Later he took a job with IBM, but he was forced to return home by his grandmother’s ill health in 1962. The chairman of Tata, J.D.R. Tata, hired Ratan, who was the son of his cousin, and put him into Tata Steel.

Mr Tata worked his way up to head Tata Steel and succeed J.D.R. as group chairman in 1981, just as India began to open to the free market. He has been credited with turning the ramshackle conglomerate, riven by factional strife and overmanning, into a business that has spearheaded the “reverse Raj”, buying up icons of British industry.

A bachelor, he is known by all as a modest and shy man. As a Parsee, he does not drink or smoke. He shuns Bombay social life and once said: “There is a great sense of loneliness from time to time. I would be lying and hypocritical if I said there wasn’t. But then I have dogs, and they are part of my life.”

Original article here.