Ratan Tata - A pioneer of his age
While growing up, enquiring if someone was a Tata or Birla meant that they have no shortage of money. Such is the legacy of the Tata family that was set by the company that started in 1868. Ratan Tata was the chairman of the Tata Group from 1991 to 2012. He had the right last name, but he started work in 1961 at Tata Steel shovelling limestone and working with the blast furnace. When Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (popularly known as J.R.D. Tata) stepped down as the chairman of Tata Sons in 1991, Ratan Tata was given the reins of the company.
Under the leadership of Ratan Tata, the Tata Group acquired companies like Jaguar Land Rover under Tata Motors, Tetley Tea under Tata Tea and Corus under Tata Steel to name a few popular names. Tata has invested in a variety of products ranging from chemicals, consumer products, IT, services, energy, communications, engineering, steel and core sciences. You can rely on Tata to get salt as well as the staff bus you require to go to work. Ratan Tata had mighty big shoes to fill when he took over from J.R.D. Tata. He decided to make a name for himself and not mimic the man who had set a great example for him. Ratan Tata was a visionary who believed in communication with his employees to keep them in the loop regarding what the company plans to achieve.
Despite being a shy person, he believes that being visible among the people who make the company work is an important part of a comprehensive improvement. He took chances and that shaped the company to achieve targets successfully. He believed that taking chances with something that can be done needs to be done. Even If you fail, having tried and failed is always better than never having tried at all.
The smallest idea can be nurtured into becoming the next revolution and that’s what he aimed for and achieved in many fields during his tenure as Chairman. When Ratan Tata decided to come to India and work at Tata, he left a comfortable life and a satisfying job in the United States of America. He persevered despite having to work on the factory floor. Even Ratan Tata did not imagine that one day he would be the boss of the entire conglomerate. He stuck to his job despite confessing to it being a frustrating experience. He knew what he had to do, and perseverance helped him become the man he is today. Trust is an important virtue that Tata operates on. Becoming a trusted brand did not happen over a few weeks or months. It took years to become one of the most trusted brands in the Indian market and work tirelessly to expand without having to compromise on the fundamental trust that drives him and the company forward. Without a bond that connects the business to the customer, you can be just another business consultant who is getting by with his contractual obligations.
When the boss trusts his employees, and they are successful in maintaining that bond, there will be a loyal base of customers so that your company thrives. The total revenue of Tata companies was over USD 100 billion in 2014-2015. With this level of success comes the need for stability while maintaining your sights on growth. The company had the stability, but Ratan Tata took the company to a whole new level of growth as international brands were acquired whenever possible. Of the total revenue earned by Tata, over 65 percent revenue comes in from overseas sales. Indian business entrepreneurs are not known to be leaders in ethical business practices, but Ratan Tata believes in being true to the cause and that shows when you interact with most Tata employees. The philosophy to avoid running ahead with a few while everybody can walk the path and go further percolates to each level of the company. The man lives in one of the most expensive locations in Mumbai but despite the superfluous amount of wealth at his control, he never indulges in obscenities. Ostentatious is the last word that would describe Ratan Tata as he lacks the need to be brash.
He lets his work speak for itself, and this attitude has earned him numerous awards all over the world. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan award in 2000 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008 to acknowledge this visionary man's work in his field. He chose to retire from his post as Chairman of Tata Group of companies on his 75th birthday (28th December 2012), and he was succeeded by Cyrus Mistry. During his time as Chairman, Ratan Tata went against the advice of his friends and developed a completely new car. Known as the cheapest car in the world, the Tata Nano was a revolution to fulfil the dream of a car for the masses. Having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Cornell University in 1962 and an Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 1975, Ratan Tata was destined to become an entrepreneur few people could match.
You would never imagine Ratan Tata to be a man who would take up any home based jobs but after retiring, he invests in bright new ideas for expansion in India as well as overseas projects from the comfort of his home. After all, rejecting a comfortable job at IBM to make something in India was a risky decision, but that’s what he did in his life and worked for it to achieve the impossible.
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