Ratan Tata, actually Ratan Naval Tata, was born on December 28, 1937, in Mumbai. He is the present Chairman of the Tata Group, India's largest conglomerate established by earlier generations of his family. Ratan Tata was born into the wealthy and famous Tata family of Mumbai. He was born to Soonoo & Naval Hormusji Tata, a Gujarati-speaking Parsi family. Ratan is the the great grandson of Tata group founder Jamsetji Tata. Ratan's childhood was troubled, his parents separating in the mid-1940s, when he was about seven and his younger brother Jimmy was five. Ratan Tata's mother moved out and both Ratan and his brother were raised by their grandmother Lady Navajbai. He was schooled at the Campion School in Mumbai. In 1962, after graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Architecture and Structural Engineering, Ratan joined the family business. Ratan turned down a job offer from IBM, following the advice of J.R.D. Tata, and entered the family business.
Ratan Tata joined the Tata Group in December 1962, when he was sent to Jamshedpur to work at Tata Steel. He worked on the floor along with other blue-collar employees, shovelling limestone and handling the blast furnaces. In 1971, Ratan was appointed the Director-in-Charge of The National Radio & Electronics Company Limited (Nelco), a company that was in dire financial difficulty. Ratan Tata suggested that the company invest in developing high-technology products, rather than in consumer electronics. J.R.D. was reluctant due to the historical financial performance of Nelco which had never even paid regular dividends. Further, Nelco had 2% market share in the consumer electronics market and a loss margin of 40% of sales when Ratan took over. Nonetheless, J. R. D. followed Ratan's suggestions.
From 1972 to 1975, Nelco eventually grew to have a market share of 20%, and recovered its losses. In 1975 however, India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency, which led to an economic recession. This was followed by union problems in 1977, so even after demand improved, production did not keep up. Finally, the Tatas confronted the unions and, following a strike, a lockout was imposed for seven months. Ratan continued to believe in the fundamental soundness of Nelco, but the venture did not survive.
In 1977, Ratan Tata was entrusted with Empress Mills, a textile mill controlled by the Tatas. When he took charge of the company, it was one of the few sick units in the Tata group. Ratan managed to turn it around and even declared a dividend. However, competition from less labour-intensive enterprises had made a number of companies unviable, including those like the Empress which had large labour contingents and had spent too little on modernisation. On Ratan Tata's insistence, some investment was made, but it did not suffice. As the market for coarse and medium cotton cloth (which was all that the Empress produced) turned adverse, the Empress began to accumulate heavier losses. Bombay House, the Tata headquarters, was unwilling to divert funds from other group companies into an undertaking which would need to be nursed for a long time. So, some Tata directors, chiefly Nani Palkhivala, took the line that the Tatas should liquidate the mill, which was finally closed down in 1986. Ratan was severely disappointed with the decision, and in a later interview with the Hindustan Times would claim that the Empress had needed just Rs 50 lakhs to turn it around. In 1981, Ratan Tata was named Chairman of Tata Industries, the Group's other holding company, where he became responsible for transforming it into the Group's strategy think-tank and a promoter of new ventures in high-technology businesses. In 1991, he took over as group chairman from J.R.D. Tata, pushing out the old guard and ushering in younger managers. Since then, he has been instrumental in reshaping the fortunes of the Tata Group, which today has the largest market capitalization of any business house on the Indian Stock Market.
Under Ratan Tata's guidance, Tata Consultancy Services went public and Tata Motors was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. His dream was to manufacture a car costing Rs 100,000 (1998: approx. US$2,200; today US$2,482). In 1998, Tata Motors introduced his brainchild, the Tata Indica. On January 31st, 2007, under Ratan Tata's chairmanship, Tata Sons successfully acquired Corus Group, an Anglo-Dutch steel and aluminium producer. With the acquisition, Ratan Tata became a celebrated personality in Indian corporate business culture. The merger created the fifth largest steel producing entity in the world.
On December 28, 2007, Ratan Tata turned 70 and achieved yet another milestone in fulfiling his dream for Tata Motors as he launched the one lakh rupee 'peoples car,' officially the TATA Nano, on January 10, 2008 at Auto Expo in New Delhi, India. Three models of the Nano were announced, and Ratan Tata delivered on his committment to developing a car costing only 1 lakh rupees, adding that "a promise is a promise," referring to his earlier promise to deliver this car at the said cost.
Ratan Tata was honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Bhushan on 26th January 2000, on the occasion of the 50th Republic Day of India. He serves in senior capacities in various organisations in India and he is a member of the Prime Minister's Council on Trade and Industry. In March 2006 Tata was honoured by Cornell University as the 26th Robert S. Hatfield Fellow in Economic Education, considered the highest honor the university awards to distinguished individuals from the corporate sector.
Ratan Tata's foreign affiliations include membership of the international advisory boards of the Mitsubishi Corporation, the American International Group, JP Morgan Chase and Booz Allen Hamilton. He is also a member of the board of trustees of the RAND Corporation, and of his alma maters: Cornell University and the University of Southern California. He also serves as a board member on the Republic of South Africa's International Investment Council and is a Asia-Pacific advisory committee member for the New York Stock Exchange. Tata is on the board of governors of the East-West Center, the advisory board of RAND's Center for Asia Pacific Policy and serves on the programme board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's India AIDS initiative. In February 2004, Ratan Tata was conferred the title of honorary economic advisor to Hangzhou city in the Zhejiang province of China.
He recently received an honorary doctorate from the London School of Economics and listed among the 25 most powerful people in business named by Fortune magazine in November 2007. << Less Bio