Barely a decade and a half ago, when Ratan N Tata took over as chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, people in the markets and in management circles dismissed him as a person of no consequence. When he sold off Tata Oil Mills Company in 1993 people said he had no stomach for competition. When he exited ACC, India's leading cement company, people said he was frittering away
his heritage. When he decided to build India's first indigenous car, analysts predicted ruin.
Ratan Tata has proved all his critics wrong. And how!
Tata is one of Indian industry's most respected business leaders. The shy, somewhat reticent chairman has taken the group's annual revenues to $21.7 billion, or more than seven times their level when he took over as boss in 1991.
Tata has successfully restructured and revitalized a group that was seen as slow, bureaucratic and unable to deal with the hurly-burly of today's intensely competitive world. Tata companies have made aggressive strides in India and abroad, leading the rush for overseas acquisitions by Indian groups, and ramping up market shares at home.
Under his leadership, the Tata group has emerged as India's largest business conglomerate, a modern, unified organization ready for the challenges of a young economy and increasingly global marketplace. He has also ensured that while the group metamorphoses to meet the volatile demands of a borderless international market, its tradition of business ethics and commitment to society remain intact, and even become stronger.
When Tata took office in 1991, he inherited an unwieldy giant with over 250 companies, representing nearly every industry, loosely held together by the group management. The immediate challenge Tata faced was to galvanize this amorphous entity to face the challenges of a newly liberalized economy. It was a feat he executed with such skill, foresight and success that it has silenced his...