Ratan Tata – Indian industrialist, philanthropist, and a former chairman of Tata Sons

by Anup Maurya
Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata, in full Ratan Naval Tata, (born December 28, 1937, Bombay [now Mumbai], India), An Indian industrialist, philanthropist, and a former chairman of Tata Sons. He was also chairman of Tata Group, from 1990 to 2012, and again, as interim chairman, from October 2016 through February 2017, and continues to head its charitable trusts.

A member of a prominent family of Indian industrialists and philanthropists (see Tata family), he was educated at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, where he earned a B.S. (1962) in architecture before returning to work in India. He gained experience in a number of Tata Group businesses and was named director in charge (1971) of one of them, the National Radio and Electronics Co. He became chairman of Tata Industries a decade later and in 1991 succeeded his uncle, J.R.D. Tata, as chairman of the Tata Group.

Upon assuming leadership of the conglomerate, Tata aggressively sought to expand it, and increasingly he focused on globalizing its businesses.

  • In 2000 the group acquired London-based Tetley Tea for $431.3 million, and
  • In 2004 it purchased the truck-manufacturing operations of South Korea’s Daewoo Motors for $102 million.
  • In 2007 Tata Steel completed the biggest corporate takeover by an Indian company when it acquired the giant Anglo-Dutch steel manufacturer Corus Group for $11.3 billion.
  • In 2008 Tata oversaw Tata Motors’ purchase of the elite British car brands Jaguar and Land Rover from the Ford Motor Company. The $2.3 billion deal marked the largest-ever acquisition by an Indian automotive firm.
Tata Nano

The following year the company launched the Tata Nano, a tiny rear-engined, pod-shaped vehicle with a starting price of approximately 100,000 Indian rupees, or about $2,000. Although only slightly more than 10 feet (3 metres) long and about 5 feet (1.5 metres) wide, the highly touted “People’s Car” could seat up to five adults and, in Tata’s words, would provide a “safe, affordable, all-weather form of transport” to millions of middle- and lower-income consumers both in India and abroad. In December 2012 Tata retired as chairman of the Tata Group.

He briefly served as interim chairman beginning in October 2016 following the ouster of his successor, Cyrus Mistry. Tata returned to retirement in January 2017 when Natarajan Chandrasekaran was appointed chairman of the Tata Group.

Among many other honours accorded him during his career, Tata received the Padma Bhushan, one of India’s most distinguished civilian awards, in 2000.

Ratan Tata Awards 

Ratan Tata was awarded many notable awards and honors. These are mentioned below: 

YearNameAwarding Organization
2000Padma BhushanGovernment of India
2008Padma VibhushanGovernment of India
2001Honorary Doctor of Business AdministrationOhio State University
2004Medal of the Oriental Republic of UruguayGovernment of Uruguay
2004Honorary Doctor of TechnologyAsian Institute of Technology.
2005International Distinguished Achievement AwardB’nai B’rith International
2005Honorary Doctor of ScienceUniversity of Warwick.
2006Honorary Doctor of ScienceIndian Institute of Technology Madras
2006Responsible Capitalism AwardFor Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST)
2007Honorary FellowshipThe London School of Economics and Political Science
2007Carnegie Medal of PhilanthropyCarnegie Endowment for International Peace
2008Honorary Doctor of LawUniversity of Cambridge
2008Honorary Doctor of ScienceIndian Institute of Technology Bombay
2008Honorary Doctor of ScienceIndian Institute of Technology Kharagpur
2008Honorary Citizen AwardGovernment of Singapore
2008Honorary FellowshipThe Institution of Engineering and Technology
2008Inspired Leadership AwardThe Performance Theatre
2009Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE)Queen Elizabeth II
2009Life Time Contribution Award in Engineering for 2008Indian National Academy of Engineering
2009Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian RepublicGovernment of Italy
2010Honorary Doctor of LawUniversity of Cambridge
2010Hadrian AwardWorld Monuments Fund
2010Oslo Business for Peace awardBusiness for Peace Foundation
2010Legend in Leadership AwardYale University
2010Honorary Doctor of LawsPepperdine University
2010Business for Peace AwardBusiness for Peace Foundation
2010Business Leader of the YearThe Asian Awards.
2012Honorary FellowThe Royal Academy of Engineering
2012Doctor of Business honoris causaUniversity of New South Wales
2012Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising SunGovernment of Japan
2013Foreign AssociateNational Academy of Engineering
2013Transformational Leader of the DecadeIndian Affairs India Leadership Conclave 2013
2013Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year – Lifetime AchievementErnst & Young
2013Honorary Doctor of Business PracticeCarnegie Mellon University
2014Honorary Doctor of BusinessSingapore Management University
2014Sayaji Ratna AwardBaroda Management Association
2014Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE)Queen Elizabeth II
2014Honorary Doctor of LawsYork University, Canada
2015Honorary Doctor of Automotive EngineeringClemson University
2015Sayaji Ratna AwardBaroda Management Association, Honoris Causa, HEC Paris
2016Commander of the Legion of HonourGovernment of France
2018Honorary DoctorateSwansea University
2021Assam BaibhavGovernment of Assam

Ratan Tata Family Tree

  • Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata- Founder of Tata Group, India’s biggest conglomerate company. He was married to Hirabai Daboo. 
  • Dorabji Tata- The elder son of Jamshedji Tata and second chairperson of Tata Group. His wife was Meherbai Tata, paternal aunt of renowned nuclear scientist Homi J. Bhabha.
  • Ratanji Tata- Younger son of Jamshedji Tata. He was the pioneer of poverty studies. He was married to Navajbai Tata. His wife adopted an orphan, Naval, who was the grand-nephew of Hirabai Tata and raised him as her own son.
  • Naval Tata- Adopted son of Navajbai Tata. His biological father was Hormusji Tata. His maternal grandmother was the sister of Hirabai Tata. Director in several Tata companies, ILO member, and recipient of Padma Bhushan, Naval Tata had three sons– Ratan Tata (5th chairperson of Tata Group), Jimmy Tata, and Noel Tata (Chairperson of Trent Limited)– from two marriages.
  • Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata- He was one of the early stalwarts who served the Tata Group. His father Dadabhoy and mother of Jamshedji Tata, Jeevanbai, were siblings. He married Suzanne Brière and the couple gave birth to five children, including J.R.D. Tata and Sylla Tata.
  • J.R.D. Tata- He served as the fourth Chairperson of Tata Group. He is the founder of Tata Airlines (later Air India) , which recently again acquired by tata groups.
  • Sylla Tata- Elder sister of J.R.D. Tata was married to the founder of the first textile mill in India, Dinshaw Maneckji Petit. Her sister-in-law  Rattanbai Petit, was married to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Jinnah’s only child, Dina Jinnah, was married to Neville Ness Wadia. 

Ratan Tata Quotes

“I don’t believe in taking the right decisions. I take decisions and then make them right.”

“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together.”

“I’ve often felt that the Indian Tiger has not been unleashed.”

“People still believe what they read is necessarily the truth.”

 “If it stands the test of public scrutiny, do it… If it doesn’t stand the test of public scrutiny then don’t do it.”

“Power and wealth are not two of my main stakes.”

“I have been constantly telling people to encourage people, to question the unquestioned and not to be ashamed to bring up new ideas, new processes to get things done.”

“None can destroy iron, but its own rust can! Likewise none can destroy a person, but its own mindset can!”

“Business need to go beyond the interest of their companies to the communities they serve.”

“Ups and downs in life are very important to keep us going, because a straight line even in an ECG means we are not alive.”

“Apart from values and ethics which I have tried to live by, the legacy I would like to leave behind is a very simple one – that I have always stood up for what I consider to be the right thing, and I have tried to be as fair and equitable as I could be.”

“I admire people who are very successful. But if that success has been achieved through too much ruthlessness, then I may admire that person, but I can’t respect him.”

“There are many things that, if I have to relive, maybe I will do it another way. But I would not like to look back and think what I have not been able to.”

“Don’t be serious, enjoy life as it comes.”

“I have always been very confident and very upbeat about the future potential of India. I think it is a great country with great potential.”

“One hundred years from now, I expect the Tatas to be much bigger than it is now. More importantly, I hope the Group comes to be regarded as being the best in India.. best in the manner in which we operate, best in the products we deliver, and best in our value systems and ethics. Having said that, I hope that a hundred years from now we will spread our wings far beyond India.”

“Take the stones people throw at you, and use them to build a monument”

“I followed someone who had very large shoes. He had very large shoes. Mr. J. R. D. Tata. He was a legend in the Indian business community. He had been at the helm of the Tata organization for 50 years. You were almost starting to think he was going to be there forever.”

“Young entrepreneurs will make a difference in the Indian ecosystem.”

“I would say that one of the things I wish I could do differently would be to be more outgoing.”

“The strong live and the weak die. There is some bloodshed, and out of it emerges a much leaner industry, which tends to survive.”

“At Tatas, we believe that if we are not among the top three in an industry, we should look seriously at what it would take to become one of the top three players.. or think about exiting the industry”

Quick View at Ratan tata Life

Birth28 December 1937
Age84 years
EducationCornell UniversityHarvard Business School
FamilyNaval Tata (Father)Sooni Commissariat (Mother)
OccupationFormer Chairperson of Tata Sons and Tata GroupPhilanthropistInvestor
TitleChairman Emeritus, Tata Sons and Tata Group
PredecessorJRD Tata
SuccessorCyrus Mistry (2012)Natarajan Chandrasekaran (2017–present)
AwardsPadma Vibhushan (2008)Padma Bhushan (2000)
Net WorthRs. 6000 crores
Quotes“I don’t believe in taking the right decisions. I take decisions and then make them right.” “Power and wealth are not two of my main stakes.”

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