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Ratan Tata: The Philanthropic Mogul of the Indian Industrial World

Created on 05 Dec 2020

Wraps up in 5 Min

Read by 10k people

Updated on 10 Sep 2022

There would hardly be anyone in India, who is not familiar with the name of Ratan Tata. Some know him as a successful businessman, and some know him for his philanthropy. But whatever the reason be, Ratan Naval Tata is a global level businessman. His ways of leading Tata Motors have got it listed on the New York Securities Exchange.

To introduce Ratan Tata in simple terms; he is the holder of many prestigious awards but a grounded man who, with time, has proved his worth. He is known for his ability to handle the most complex situation with a levelled head.

Even with all the success, he is still not on the world's richest man list. The reason is all the philanthropic work he does. He has always believed in giving back to society. This man with such great ideologies indeed deserves all the respect in the business world. 

So, let's get an insight into the story of Ratan Tata.

Early years of Ratan Tata

Ratan was born in 1937 in the prestigious and wealthy Tata family. Despite being born into a luxurious life, he was never blinded by those riches. Ratan Tata has been an introvert from the very beginning, not the best social butterfly. 

His family faced a crisis on a personal level when, in 1948, his parents got separated. Following this event, Navajbai Tata, his grandmother, took him and his little stepbrother in and also officially adopted Ratan Tata through the J. N. Petit Parsi Orphanage. This started his life in the Tata palace. 

Separated from his parents at the young age of 10, he did feel low and disheartened but kept a clear vision regarding his future. With that attitude in 1959, he got his bachelor's degree from Cornell University in Architecture. At that time, he had no idea regarding the life that waited for him ahead.

The first step towards the business world

After graduation, he was given a job opportunity in IBM, but he kindly declined and decided to return to his country. The reason being his grandmother's deteriorating health. From this decision, you can get a sense of how kind and caring he is at his heart. 

At this time, in 1962 he began working in his great grandfather's company, the Tata Group. He started at floor level, working in Tata Steel in Jamshedpur. He continued working there as a blue-collar worker for the next 9 years, gaining all the experience that he can.

The first challenge

All the experience that he gained was finally put to the test when in 1971, Ratan Tata was made the director-in-charge of NELCO, National Radio And Electronics Company Ltd. Now the challenge was that, at that time, NELCO was in the midst of a business turmoil. Ratan Tata tried his best to reverse the previous 40% misfortunes and was even able to get the company out of the crisis. But then came the National Emergency in 1975, and the corresponding bad economic condition was like a punch in the gut. This forced them into shutting NELCO down.

The next challenge

Fueled by the failure of the first challenge, Ratan Tata wanted to learn more, so he decided to take on the Advanced Management Program of the Harvard Business School. After coming back from Harvard, he came across another business challenge, which was to save one of the Tata Textiles known as Empress Mills. 

At that time, Empress Mills was going through a financial crisis. Ratan Tata gave his best efforts to not repeat the previous mistakes, and his efforts did not go to waste. 

However, this success was short-lived as an investment decision to save the textile subsidiary was not approved. Following this, Empress Mills also faced the same outcome as NELCO and was shut down in 1986.  

The decision of JRD Tata

JRD Tata, the chairman of the Tata Group, announced an unanticipated decision in 1991. Stepping down from his position, he appointed Ratan Naval Tata as his legal successor. The next events were quite predictable; the employees and senior management were not happy with the decision. They started doubting the abilities of Ratan Tata based on his previous two failures.  

The new chairman also had to face public criticism. People believed that Ratan Tata was not ready for such a big responsibility and needed to be removed. 

Proving his worth 

Ratan Tata decided to prove everyone wrong with his work and decisions. He made bold changes, and because of those, today, the success of Tata Group is known at a global level. 

Some of his major developments include the following:

  • He began with setting a retirement age for the senior management and the board of directors. This helped in adding more young minds to the management mix. And this addition allowed a fresh and creative idea to enter into various sections of the firm.
  • He added new technology to the firm which looked like a good investment to foreign investors, thus attracting Foreign Direct Investment. This happened at just the right time when the New Economic Policy was in action in 1992. 
  • Started the multinational IT service and consultancy firm, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). This firm is currently a popular start of a career for many new job seekers. 
  • Guiding Tata Motors towards the path of getting listed in the New York Securities Exchange. And later, launching cars like Indica and Nano at an affordable price which becomes budget-friendly for middle-class families. 
  • Then he went ahead and started acquiring brands under Tata and Sons. Acquires the English tea brand "Tetley" under Tata Tea, "Corus" under Tata Steel, and Jaguar and Land Rover under Tata Motors. These acquisitions gained Tata a recognizable place in the global markets. Now, around 65% of the firm's revenue is from abroad.     

His way of blending new talent and ideas with experience is what helped in taking Tata Group to where it is today. All the efforts made by Ratan Tata were even recognized by the government of India.

He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in the year 2000. This was one of the many awards that he kept receiving for his work and deeds throughout his life.

Philanthropic ideology

Ratan Tata is also well known for his charitable work. He earns profits and gives them back to society to be used for many charitable purposes or societal developments. In fact, around 65% of his and his company's earnings are donated to foundations and other charitable organizations. 

He has donated to many educational institutions so that a proper academic environment can be provided to all the students. His charity work is not limited to India but throughout the world.

He may not be on the Forbes list of the richest men in the world, but he surely knows how to win people's hearts.

Closing thought

Ratan Naval Tata retired in 2012, with Cyrus Mistry as his successor. During his active years, he always had a clear vision regarding his goals and worked hard to achieve them. He had his fair share of struggles before he became the brand that he is today. 

He believes that ups and downs in one's life are important for them to move forward. So working sincerely towards achieving one's goals, is what makes the success sweeter.

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