In the early days after JRD anointed him as his successor, he had a difficult time. Even before that, in the 1970s, RNT had tough nuts to crack, the Empress and other textile mills and NELCO to name but two. But those assignments also gave him the experience on what to “keep and nurture” and what to “drop” in the years ahead.
Also JRD had left behind a ‘federation’ of individual satraps who guarded their fiefdoms and were not disposed to help each other. A ‘group’ concept was not popular. Also JRD ran the companies on the strength of his personal charisma. The right to manage through ownership was not possible when the public sector was supreme, and in many companies, the Tata shareholding was minimal. RNT recognised that the ‘right to manage’ came from ownership, and from the start, Tatas have raised their holdings in companies.
RNT also encouraged ‘across the group’ activities, which brought a feeling of ‘togetherness’ and encouraged executives to move from one Tata company to another. Group executives now come together on common theme programmes and build on their experiences.
RNT’s style is not to ‘thump the table’, but to ‘softly mandate’ on what he feels should be the path to follow – and others do follow.
He is a workaholic, and stands by his commitments even under physical pain. He once travelled from Mumbai to Europe, flat on his back and under medication (and against medical advice) to keep a commitment for a motor show.
Just like JRD’s first love was aviation, Ratan’s first love is automobiles. This, I guess makes Tata Motors his first charge. I had always hoped that Tata Steel (where he did a stint in the 1960s) could be his second love!
As he rides out of Bombay House, he will simultaneously ride into Tata trusts, where he will devote himself to the philantrophic activities of the Tatas. Let us wish him a successful and long stint in his chosen field.
JJ Irani is former MD, Tata Steel
Ratan Tata is too great a person for me to comment on. However, I have a lot of personal regard for Tata, a man who has given his life to the organisation. Armed with humility and empathy, Tata is always willing to look at problems. From the moment you tell him your problem, it becomes his own. I have not worked with him much, since by