Ratan Tata: Doyen of industry, leading philanthropist

This Tata Group ex-chairman was instrumental in the key acquisitions of Tetley, Jaguar Land Rover & Corus, that built a global brand. He is a Padma Bhushan & Padma Vibhushan awardee.

Early life and education

Born to Naval Tata and Sonoo on December 28, 1937 in Surat, Ratan Tata studied at the Campion School, Mumbai, till Class 8. Then he was enrolled at the Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai and at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla. In 1955, he graduated from the Riverdale Country School in New York City and received a degree in architecture with structural engineering from Cornell University, USA. Later, he enrolled at the Harvard Business School and completed an Advanced Management Program in 1975.

Career

Ratan Tata started his career with the Tata Steel division in 1962 and nine years later he was appointed as the director-in-charge of the National Radio & Electronics Company Limited. In 1977, he was moved to Empress Mills, a struggling textile mill within the Tata Group. The mill was shut down as his plan was rejected by other Tata executives. In 1991, JRD Tata stepped down as chairman of Tata Sons, naming him his successor. He expanded the organisation and was instrumental in conceptualisation and building of Tata Nano and Tata Indica cars. On his 75th birthday (December 28, 2012), he resigned from the post of chairman of the Tata Group and was succeeded by Cyrus Mistry, managing director of Shapoorji Pallonji Group. During Ratan Tata’s chairmanship of 21 years, revenues grew over 40 times, and profit over 50 times. On October 24, 2016, Cyrus Mistry was removed as the chairman of Tata Sons and Ratan Tata was made interim chairman. On January 12, 2017, Natarajan Chandrasekaran was named as the chairman of Tata Sons. Even after retirement, Ratan Tata is an active businessman and invests in promising business ventures.

As a philanthropist

A supporter of education, medicine and rural development, Ratan Tata is a leading philanthropist. More than 65% of his shares is invested in charitable trusts. Tata Education and Development Trust, a philanthropic affiliate of theT ata Group, endowed a $28 million Tata Scholarship Fund that will allow Cornell University to provide financial aid to undergraduate students from India. In 2010, Tata Group companies and Tata charities donated $50 million for the construction of an executive center at Harvard Business School. In 2014, the Tata Group gave ₹950 million to IIT, Bombay, the largest donation received in its history and formed the Tata Center for Technology and Design to develop design and engineering principles suited to the needs of people and communities with limited resources. The group formed the MIT Tata Center of Technology and Design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a mission to address the challenges of resource-constrained communities, with an initial focus on India. This year, he pledged ₹1,500 crore to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Personal life and legacy

Ratan Tata is a bachelor. Known for his low profile lifestyle, he resides in a simple house in Mumbai and drives around in a Tata sedan. He loves privacy and shuns media spotlight. He has only CDs, books and dogs for company. In 2004, Tata Motors was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He got Tata Tea to acquire Tetley, Tata Motors to acquire Jaguar Land Rover, and Tata Steel to acquire Corus.

Awards and achievements

The Honorary Fellowship of The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2007, the title of Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, United Kingdom, in 2009, the ‘Oslo Business for Peace Award’ by the Business for Peace Foundation in 2010, the ‘Honorary Knight Grand Cross of The Order of the British Empire’ in 2014, and Commander of the Legion of Honour by the government of France are some of the major awards he has received.

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Interesting facts

Ratan Tata’s father Naval Tata was the adopted son of the Ratanji Tata, the younger son of Jamsetji Tata, founder of the Tata Group of companies. When Ratan Tata was 10, his parents separated and he was subsequently raised by his grandmother, Navajbai Tata.

The executive center at Harvard Business School has been named Tata Hall after Ratan Tata (AMP ‘75) Tata Consultancy Services has given $35 million, the largest donation by a company, to Carnegie Mellon University for a facility to research in cognitive systems and autonomous vehicles.

Ratan Tata set a perfect example of generosity and leadership during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Unarmed, he stood all alone outside the Taj hotel and supervised the activities to help the victims. He showcased his humane gesture by personally visiting the families of all the 80 employees who were killed or injured.

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