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Ratan Tata, Head of $100B Tata & Sons, Retires (thehindu.com)
89 points by azifali 1546 days ago | hide | past | web | 62 comments | favorite

If there is one guy on the planet that has absolutely deserved to rest on his laurels for a bit it is Ratan Tata. I've been reading quite a bit about him in the last few weeks and compared to most western CEOs that I'm familiar with this guy is much more ethical and a fascinating person.

He reminds me of Ray Anderson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Anderson_%28entrepreneur%29).

They say that nice guys finish last, in a world where a saying like that gets a lot of traction it is great to see a man like Ratan Tata prove that not only can nice guys finish first, they can do so coming from a substantial disadvantage. Imagine, Tata bought out Corus steel (which in turn had bought out Hoogovens Steel), one the worlds largest steel factories.

Buying out a first world competitor is a pretty good move from a 3rd world country.

If you feel like reading some interesting stuff you could do worse than typing 'Ratan Tata' into google and digging in, definitely recommended.

> Buying out a first world competitor is a pretty good move from a 3rd world country

You just called India a 3rd world country ? sigh

The etymology of the phrase "3rd world country"[1] is interesting, and isn't directly related to economic strength. According to the original definition, India is indeed a 3rd world country.

A second definition of 3rd world is "developing countries" [2]. India still falls into this definition, but it's rapidly approaching "developed country" status.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World#Third_Worldism

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developing_Countries

I have read these articles before. But these definitions are from a different time and have an unnecessary stigma attached to them (How did non aligned countries end up meaning poor ?).

I don't think India is a developed (what does this even mean anymore) country, nor will it be one in the near future. But I think calling one of the largest economies (4th in PPP, 9th in nominal gdp) as third world a bit simplistic..

Thats funny because there are so many third world countries, with higher per capita incomes, better infrastructure and far better legal systems than India.

By the same measure, there are may be a dozen countries ahead of USA. So what is your point ?

My point is that there are third world countries (and they are universally regarded so) which are better than India in a lot of respects. I am indian, I have travelled to some of the other third world countries and have seen it myself.

So basically, India is not even the better one among third world countries.

India is a third world country. You are welcome to provide any evidence to suggest otherwise.

I am willing to have a conversation as long as you understand who the burden of proof lies with.

@jacquesm, When you say read a lot, I hope you are referring to non-indian sources...If so, can you point me to some

Google will do all the pointing you need and then some, there is a lot of material about him on the web.

And a lot of the Indian sources are in fact in English.


Lots of good links there too.




The most interesting parts to me are how he managed to leverage his starting position (definitely not at 0) to the point where he made a play for international expansion.

@jacquesm, I appreciate your links below. But I don't see much critical analysis in those links. For example, in the wikipedia article, there are no details about what he did from 1962 to 1991. What projects did he handle during this time, any crisis, etc. Did he fail anywhere or was it midas touch everywhere? A CEO of $100B empire has no controversies?

Btw, the article conveniently skips 2G scam that happened in India and how his company got a good price on the spectrum. I am not saying he did wrong stuff...but its not entirely overboard.

However, I agree with you, that he definitely leveraged is starting position and made for international expansion.

Btw, if you have $1B starting money, whether you are in first world or third world doesn't matter...you can buy companies anywhere.

Tough crowd.

These are starting points, use them to pull up more information, put it back into google, rinse, repeat.

It won't be long and you'll be drowning in critical analysis, such as the time when the farmers whose land was to be vacated for the Nano factories revolted.

I can't do your research and reading for you.

As for the takeover of corus/hoogovens, that was a $13 Billion deal, getting from $1B to the point where you can do a buy-out at that level is a fairly impressive affair, it was the largest international take-over by an Indian company in history.

That alone makes it exceptional and I think you're underestimating the magnitude of that achievement.

Oh, and you don't need to do the @username thing here it's not twitter.

For those who do not know about him, Ratan Tata is a role model for many entrepreneurs in his homecountry (India). He is renowned for his practicality and down-to-earth attitude, despite being the head of a multi billion $ conglomerate.

Infact he spent his last day on the shop floor of Tata Motors rather than at some lavish retirement party (as most CEOs today do)[1]

Massive respect for the man who's led the conglomerate for decades and brought it to the forefront in multiple sectors, and all this while keeping values and morality at the core of his business logic.

Wish him all the very best for all of his future endeavours!

[1] https://twitter.com/RNTata2000/status/284648010657456128

For those who don't know why this is important or a big thing.

1. He/His family is a very big role model for every aspiring entrepreneur in India.

2. They have a history of over a 150 years of building not just hundreds of billion dollar business but also contributing a lot back to the society.

3. They have built numerous hospitals across India, which often come across as life savers for many middle class/poor people. Especially cancer cure hospitals.

4. They also built one of the premiere science institutes in India. In Bangalore.

5. They more or less built and entire city called Jamshedpur, in the process of setting up their business providing lively hood several thousands of people.

6. They were phenomenal in pioneering the national airline of India.

7. They set up many high ethical standards regarding treating workers well. Infact getting 8 hour work day, health care etc were all their standards now common in government offices in India.

And I can just go on.

Once in generation leaders have been produced by their family. Which are not just changing the face of India but that of the world now.

For those who want to know what contributions they have towards software. They were one of the earliest software services companies in India named Tata consultancy services. To know why that is so important. Together with Infosys and Wipro they defined and shaped the entire software scene in India.

Today youngsters troll on these large Mega corps. But those three companies did much of bulk of Indian software work throughout 80's and 90's. They built bulk of the infrastructure. They built training facilities, trained people and built a lot of confidence that Indians have it in them to compete at the global stage. They even shaped the government policy to a large extent.

Without all that, much of what is possible in Indian IT and pursued with confidence not just in services, but also products couldn't have even been remotely possible.

You could almost say Narayana Murthy, Ratan Tata and Azim Premji could take the all the accolades for building such a bold platform for Indian software engineers to deliver at a global level now.

What would you say about the criticism that people like Tata, Mittal or Ambani can get ahead by virtue of being powerful enough to evade the crippling permit and protectionism imposed by the Indian state. Such people have an interest not to open up India to competition too quickly as to jeopardize their businesses. In other words, they are part of the power structure that's preventing or retarding reforms.

Eventually, they will want to open up the local markets and reform the bureaucracy, but at a slow enough pace as not to interfere with their quasi-monopoly position. Slow growth or stagnation is producing a net "rent" for the powerful few, while prolonging misery for the rest.

We can hardly put the blame in on large corporations for halting reforms. The only commitment that Tatas and Ambanis have is to maximize the share holder value and if they have a monopoly in the market they can do it much more easily. As long as these companies do not cross the line where they can get implicated by court (such as bribing ministers) I think they are okay.

The responsibility to protect the interests of public is with the government which is failing miserably at that task. The people of India too dont seem to value freedom much. For example the anti-corruption movement in India supports a larger government than a thinner one. They too are against reforms but want more and more lokpals to supervise the existing failed structures.

When people are evading their responsibility to fight for their freedom government will have no incentive it giving freedom to people. Corporations never have that kind of obligation in any way. Name one large company in India or elsewhere that has supported reforms that could lead to more competition in their target markets ?

Oh sweet irony! A majority of kamaal's comments are about the devalued programming culture in India... where people are expected to shift to a management role asap and if you are just a programmer after 5-10 years you must be a loser. Who is responsible for that culture? 3 guesses tcs infosys wipro .

Without TCS, Infosys and Wipro there wouldn't even be a programming culture in India.

If today as an Indian am able to think about all these great programming work, its because these people did the ground work for guys like me to build upon. Else my generation would have been wasted in doing that ground work.

During my childhood when I was around 5 it was common for my uncles to remark that I may have to go outside India to work as an engineer. If today I can boldly pursue an engineering career in India its because of these people.

Mega corps trolls don't realize this. Heck! Apart from talking, whining, complaining and shitting on great leaders they do nothing. Nothing is stopping you from doing what you think you should be the right.

If a person is not happy with what he is paid, or work offered. He can always work hard, quit and work for a foreign company. Instead of vomiting bile on an industrialist whose work provides employment to millions.

Save this servile genuflecting for the unwashed masses of india. Those 3 commodity IT vendors have as much to do with programming as say a quixtar or an amway has to do with entrepreneurship. People were programming back in the 50s and 60s when physical computers were a rarity...to think one would need an infosys to introduce programming to India... heh heh...and since when does computer programming have anything to do with providing large scale employment to society. Parent is truly delusional.

>>People were programming back in the 50s and 60s when physical computers were a rarity

Which country? In India we had a nation wide bandh, strikes and shutdown when our prime minister(Rajiv Gandhi) wanted to introduce computers in late 80's. Because we were afraid computers will eliminate much of desk jobs.

>>...to think one would need an infosys to introduce programming to India...

Contrary to whatever you think, we did need Infosys, Wipro and TCS to get programming in India.

>>...and since when does computer programming have anything to do with providing large scale employment to society.

Since automation sweeped the world. Since using robots for manufacturing became the norm, Since using the internet became critical to communication, services and nearly every other act in the world.

>>Parent is truly delusional.

Sure, great individuals like you must show us the way by doing something.

What exactly is stopping you?

Can someone explain, how in a country like India where corruption is widespread, The Tatas built a $100B company without paying any bribes? Am I missing something? I believe Govt officials in India are rapacious.

Powerful people are generally insulated from corruption unlike you and me. They simple help each other out.

Yes, I'd suggest http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Last-Blue-Mountain-Authorised/d... where the founder himself explains how

Now, we are talking about one legend here so it deserves the mentioning of another great legend also as most of people here may not know about him - Dhirubhai Ambani. The founder of another one of biggest conglomerates in India - Reliance Industries. He achieved the same success, business penetration in 30 years that took tatas about 150 years. He recorded the fastest success ever known in the business circles of India. Read more about him here -


The Ambani's are / were extremely corrupt. Hardly an inspiration to anyone.

thank you for saying that.

Ratan Tata: Top 10 achievements under his leadership


Tata was first of all a trading company only in 1898, now it is a diversified business conglomerate, accusation of Corus Steel, Jaguar and Land Rover, and recently a hostile big for a international hotel group are just how far reaching the Tata has been.

The baton has been passed on to a new person now, lets see how it goes. Mr.Mistry is like Mr.Cook of Apple, while Mr.RN Tata was like Mr.Steve Jobs of Apple. Well thats the laymans perception of the new head.

I respect Ratan Tata but the Steve Jobs analogy does not fit. Very different situation and careers.

you mean acquisition, not accusation.

haha, my bad :P thanks

And 'bid', not 'big'.

Apart from being a great business leader, Ratan is a good, decent person. I've been told by someone very close to me who was a corporate pilot for him and flew him around for several years.

I wish the best of luck to this man.

I would salute and remember Ratan Tata even for the last two years of his work. He has achieved some of the most unthinkable awesome things as an entrepreneur off India:

1. Delivered Tata Nano, an awesome product built ground up that just works.

2. The way they managed their injured employees, and even those not working for them, after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Indian Government did not provide any support to the small tea-stall vendors, beggars, railway employees and injured policemen. Ratan Tata did.

That is height of humanity shown by him, despite the urge to excel in business. Amazing stuff.

What he did after the Mumbai terrorist attacks was amazing, and not widely known outside of India (I only found out after an Indian colleague liked a comment about it on facebook). You can see the full list here: http://rummuser.com/?p=3182 but a few examples:

The settlement for every deceased member ranged from Rs. 36 to 85 lacs [One lakh rupees translates to approx 2200 US $ ] in addition to the following benefits:

a. Full last salary for life for the family and dependents;

b. Complete responsibility of education of children and dependents anywhere in the world.

c. Full Medical facility for the whole family and dependents for rest of their lives.

Employee outreach centers were opened where all help, food, water, sanitation, first aid and counseling was provided. 1600 employees were covered by this facility.

Every employee was assigned to one mentor and it was that person’s responsibility to act as a “single window” clearance for any help that the person required.

Relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the railway station surroundings, just behind the Taj, including the “Pav- Bha jiâ” vendor and the paan shop owners.

His companies have advanced software development as much as CMMI

In short, absolutely nothing

This trollish comment is uncalled for. Tata is a huge conglomerate; and they indeed have quite a few interesting things going on in various domains. Few examples that I can think of: www.crlindia.com and www.tataadvancedsystems.com.

TCS (Tata's IT arm) has a revenue of $10 billion and employs 260000 people. How can that amount to nothing? TCS builds software for a large number of Fortune 500 companies. You would be surprised how much of software you use daily is built in India.

It's getting better, but most of the code I see from TCS in our code base is not very good. However I see lots of crappy code from all over the world so.

Main problem is that the best developers don't go to TCS or we just don't see them.

TCS (and the other similar companies) have plenty of very good developers, but many of their clients are only willing to pay for the cheapest available, technically qualified, body in a seat, so that's what they get.

However, if you're willing to pay for the quality (or you're a new client that they're trying to impress), you'll see some excellent people working for them.

The main problem is the best developers go the highest bidders which are often not Indian companies. Amazon, Google, Microsoft these are the ones offering big bucks in India.

But they won't be able to hire anything more than a few tens of people every year.

With several thousands of engineers coming out of colleges every years. Without mass hiring firms like Wipro, Infosys and TCS we are screwed. Its a fact nobody likes to admit.

Its also a myth that these companies don't have good work, I worked for one of them. If you are genuinely passionate, you can do far better work than what is portrayed.

And as I said, without these employers like these we would all be screwed.

Heck, without them doing all the work in the 80's and 90's we wouldn't probably even stand a chance now.

I personally saw a completely different reason for this, it wasn't that the best developers didn't work for TCS or that the best developers worked for the highest bidders.

For all the years we had TCS developers working with the team, our developers stayed as developers and improved. Yet with TCS the status symbol there was to be a manager. We had a lot of churn over the years as the more experienced developers became with TCS, they stopped development and moved into a more "prestigious" role as a manager and stopped coding.

>>Yet with TCS the status symbol there was to be a manager.

That's because just like every where in the world. Power centers and money paid is higher in the managerial levels than technical levels.

The software or the front-end doesn't matter for the arm TCS. It is the revenue TATA get from it. The TCS doesn't develope any software, but just create a code for other software, just as asked by the US and other customers. They are back-end in other words. The revenue matters. As and Indian I also don't know any software created by TCS. They just TYPE as said by other.

That's USD 13/hour per employee. Not too much. It is interesting to compare to other companies, IBM?

You can live very very comfortably 13 USD per hour if you're living in South Asia. Few people get paid those kinds of numbers

I was not referring about living good or bad, just that it is not too much revenue for the workforce involved. Tata is a global company.

Incase of Tata, don't look at the amount paid per person.. Instead have a look at the number of people employed directly and indirectly by TATA group of companies...

TCS alone, have 250,000+ employees..

Not everyone spends in USD.

TCS can hardly be called a software company. They dont build anything. They simply cater to the needs of other large companies. IT is a service industry and no geek worth his salt will ever work with them irrespective of the pay.

These are, as it was mentioned in another article, "CRUD systems" in their majority (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CRUD)

In essence, several giant Java systems (+ Oracle usually).

But he surely can sell expensive systems to multibillion dollar companies and charge a lot of money, that's an important quality of his.

Did they contribute anything to free software? Did they contribute to the advancement of software development in any way (articles, libraries, books, etc?) Does Tata has the same level of employee attraction/retention as Google/Fb/Amazon or others?

India doesn't have institutions or the kind of exposure people at MIT or Stanford or Berkeley or Princeton have.

There is almost no support from the government and people are either mostly lower middle class or poor. So its a little unfair to expect people like Richard Stallman or Larry Wall to have born in India.

It is possible in the US only because because bulk of work in building universities, infrastructure and exposure is already done by your government.

However when given the proper support Indians have always proved to be very hardworking people who go great heights.

Where does this leave us? Companies like these did a lot of work to put Indian developers on the global scene by first fighting a socialist kind of economy, building multi billion dollar businesses, training people and doing a lot of confidence building work for Indians.

May be the next generation you will see some genuine competition from India.

Well, I think you're on the spot.

I understand Tata means for a lot of people having a job and a salary, and in India, given the opportunities Tata offers this is very important.

I'm not against people working there, what I'm against is the work model that is used in the majority of projects there. As others have said, some customers pay to have 'warm bodies' in the project.

As you said, maybe next generations will have more and better opportunities in India, let's hope for that and surely Tata and others are a step towards that.

I highly doubt it. Given the current scenario where college kids are just upto how to settle for a job and pass through it, I highly doubt how many innovations we will see.

Sure, Tata was originally a steel company and while it's a huge conglomerate now that does a bunch of other things, they're not known for pushing the edges of software development. There's no reason they have to be, unless you're referring to the somewhat ridiculous "salt-to-software" term the author has sprinkled on the article.

TCS may be very profitable but it sucks as do most software service companies in India and around the world.

The Tata Group however transcends TCS and TCS is just a very small component of the Tata machinery.

Tata has does a whole lot of social good in India while the govt was busy being corrupt.

Its a dumb comment and doesn't even mean anything. TCS has been and still is the biggest software export company in India.

TCS has developed the Indian Railway Ticket booking website , which is being accessed by millions of Indians every hour for transactions.Being such a populous country , you can expect how high the load and scalability of the application should be .My opinion is that , services companies like TCS do what the client asks them to do.There are many research projects done by TCS , including 'Eka' the world's most powerful supercomputer at its time when it was developed. So how come one say TCS is nothing ?

If the system is designed well, the site should have only about 2-3 million hits per day. Way less than something like kayak or orbitz...In terms of modern day traffic, they should be able to handle it effortlessly.

CMMI is all about processes not about the quality of software delivered. TCS is a third rate software company. It is a very good IT services company.

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