Friday, March 03, 2006

The TATA legacy

The first half hour of todays Charlie Rose interview on PBS was with Ratan Tata, Chairman of TATA Sons. This was one interview I was very eager to watch especially because I've always had the greatest respect for Ratan Tata, ever since I had the honour of interviewing him during my 11th standard. He seemed to possess an aura of distinction, integrity, character and humility that completely floored me, a young naive 15 year old. Not only did he take the time to actually meet with a bunch of kids and answer their immature questions but he also took notes when he asked us what we as the future of this country felt about certain issues. Throughout the course of your life you have the honour of meeting certain individuals who will inspire you, whose words you will lap up and whose success you will forever attempt to emulate. For me, it definitely was Ratan Tata. In modern India, he is definitely my hero along with his uncle, JRD Tata.

Tata seems to make everything and do everything. From steel, cement, telecommunications, tea, chemicals and the entrepreneurial driven start of Air India ... the list is endless. The diversity of businesses is just mind boggling.

The Tata name has always been an integral part of my life. My father is a scientist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, at the very tip of South Mumbai, surrounded by the naval base on all sides. TIFR, established in 1945, a result of the vision of its founder Homi Bhabha, JRD Tata and Nehru, soon became a cradle for scientific pursuits and was not just limited to science but was dedicated to delivering the benefits of such research to the Indian people. Having grown up in this research institute, as a kid, I was automatically loyal to the TATA name. But with time as my naiveness wore off, the more I read and learnt about JRD Tata and Ratan Tata the more I idolized them.

During the centenary year of JRD Tata's birth, I read an article about him in a newsletter of the TIFR Alumni Association titled : J.R.D. - The Eternal Icon. The author borrowed a few of his lines from an article written by JRD himself, which really moved me. He wrote -

(In Tatas) we have retained the fire of idealism and in its glow we have come to recognize that no wealth or power can be more valuable than our dignity; no loss of profit can be more critical than the loss of our credibility; no skills or qualifications can substitute the integrity of our character.

I have always been in awe of these words and have sworn by them. I have always wondered, how a family can zealously practice and preach values that are so severely lacking elsewhere among other global businesses? The word Tata itself is tantamount to excellence, integrity and community focus. The wealth that the Tata group has created for itself is but an insignificant fraction of the amount by which they have enriched the nation. And as JRD himself said -

The cycle is now complete; what came from the people has gone back to the people many times over.

His commitment to perfection, as he said it himself, "trifles make for perfection for perfection is not a trifle", reflected in the products and services of the Tata group and the contributions of his group to the nation earned him the Bharat Ratna. It is said of him - "He touched power, but remain untouched by it"

And Ratan Tata is no less worthy of adulation than his philanthrophic, charismatic and respected uncle. He took over an empire and transformed it into an efficient organization ready to face the 21st century. His stress on technology resulted in his greatest success, the emergence of Tata Consultany Services, now the flagship of the Tata Group. Again, despite record losses, Rata Tata's faith in technology resulted in the new Indica, a smashing success and Tata Motors was listed in the New York Stock Exchange. His business acumen won him the FORBES' Asia Businessman of the Year in 2005 and in my opinion, even more importantly, in December of that same year, he was awarded "Quality of Life Award" at the United Nations in NY for exemplary corporate philanthrophy. Business leaders the world over swear by his business integrity and social responsibility.

Newsweek reported - "...a family conglomorate that has gone professional without losing a distinct set of old-school values"

I will always be humbled by and attempt to incorporate the values which the Tata Group embodies. As the last phase of my school life comes to an end and I enter the professional workforce I can only hope to lead through strength of character and affection and follow in the footsteps of these great individuals.


At Sun Mar 05, 01:07:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger Sujata said...

The Tata's have indeed been a business cornerstone in India..their name synonymous with integrity and ideal to be attained by any fledgling business.As a young Indian ,especially, one ready to enter the business world in the near can only hope their legacy continues and more entrepreneurs strive for success the way the Tata's have.


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