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Ratan's Tata

Time:2018-02-14 06:38Turbochargers information Click:

Tata Ratan

Ratan's Tata

Ratan Tata

It is seven in the evening. Ratan Tata leaves Bombay house, the Tata Group headquarters in south Mumbai, and gets behind the steering wheel of his Mercedes. There is a gruelling meeting at the exclusive Chambers Club at the Taj Hotel and after that a business dinner.

By the time he reaches his sea-facing apartment in Bakhtawar, Colaba, and pets Tango, his German Shepherd, he has clocked another 15-hour day. It has been six weeks since he retired as the executive chairman of the Tata Group, but Ratan Tata shows little signs of slowing down. Hopping across the country, the 65-year-old continues to mentor the group. 

The only concession he allows himself is no work and casual attire on the Saturdays he is in Mumbai. If you are a regular at the Taj on weekends, around noon you may spot an unassuming man in khakis, denim shirt and loafers get into his speed boat at the Marina and head for the minimalist beach-house he has designed himself at Alibaug on the mainland. Such luxuries have been rare though. 

Moolah Mantra

Ratan's philosophy has been simple: focus on brands, trim the commodity sail, expand services, get out of the businesses that are not among the top three, and think global.

End-to-end Solutions

From being a software giant, TCS is set to become one of the world's largest end-to-end solution provider. Though the country's biggest IT player missed the boom bus, it promises to be the biggest on stock street with an expected valuation of over Rs 60,000 crore.

Shaped for Success

Ratan cut the staff size by a third, divested non-core businesses like cement and trimmed costs to emerge as the cheapest steel maker.

Going Global

Ratan realised that growing tea was bad business. In a paradigm shift, he boldly bid for Tetley and turned Tata Tea into the world's second largest tea marketer.

Wired for the Future

Earlier, the group was only a bit player in Andhra Pradesh, but with VSNL and Idea, the Tata imprint now spans the entire bandwidth ranging from long distance and cellular to wireless and basic services.

Sumo of the Roads

Ratan engineered the potential of Telco and realised JRD's dream of turning the truckmaker into an automobile giant by delivering hits like Sumo and Indica. Telco makes trucks too.

It has been so for Ratan ever since he took over the reins of the 130-year-old group on March 25, 1991, from the colossal J.R.D. Tata, the man who ruled over the Tata empire and led the Indian industry for over five decades. For someone who walked in the wake of JRD, "Ratan has more than lived up to JRD's vision and expectations", says Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC.

The Tatas have since grown from a Rs 10,627-crore behemoth to a Rs 49,456-crore conglomerate. But Ratan's work is far from over. After Indica, the group's biggest gamble is its foray into telecom, where it has already invested Rs 5,000 crore and aims to invest another Rs 9,000 crore in the next five years. But the strategy appears confused.

Its presence in both CDMA (Tata Teleservices) and GSM mobile telephony (via investment in Idea) may be strategically sound, but seems wholly inadequate. While Tata Teleservices is present in just six circles, the stalled merger with BPL Telecom has robbed Idea of a national cellular footprint. Worse, the two arms seem to be fighting each other.

Added to this are the woes of the VSNL acquisition and BSNL's proposed entry in long distance telephony by 2004, which threaten the sustainability of VSNL's income stream. Ratan, of course, disagrees.

Kishore Chaukar, executive director, Tata Sons, and the pivot in the telecom play, believes there is no confusion: "Eventually there will be a unified licence for all telecom services and we will offer data, voice and video services."

Ratan's Tata

Paradigm Shift

But faced with Reliance Infocomm offering everything from voice to video, the Tatas' ambitions could take a beating unless Ratan personally steps in to reformulate the game plan. Besides, there is the burden of going public (with Tata Consultancy Services) when the capital market is comatose and of guiding Telco through intense competition.

But then, it has never been easy. Ratan was barely a year old when the 34-year-old JRD took over from Sir Nowroji Saklatvala in 1938. Ratan took charge from JRD at an age when most CEOs are looking to reinvent themselves. The circumstances were not easy either.

Even the most ardent admirers of JRD would agree that by the time Ratan took over, the Tata empire, geographically and politically, resembled post-Independence India littered with princely states and fiefdoms. As entrepreneurs like Reliance and Essar forged ahead, the Tatas were nudged off the top three positions in every business. It would be a challenge to turn this ageing elephant around.

Taking on the Satraps

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