Ratan Naval Tata is the visionary leader of the Tata Group, the largest corporate conglomerate in India. The Group’s diverse portfolio of businesses include IT services, steel, automobiles and components, telecommunications, hotels, tea, chemicals, power, insurance, and mutual funds. Tata’s combined revenue of nearly $18 billion spread among 93 operating companies is the equivalent of 2.8 percent of India’s gross domestic product.
Known in international business circles for its high ethical standards and focus on social responsibility, the Tata Group, established in 1868, has long served as an exemplary model of corporate philanthropy and humanitarianism. All Tata companies adhere to a common set of core values and guiding principles that focus on proactive approaches to sustainable development and a dynamic commitment to enhancing human excellence. Sixty-six percent of the equity of the Group’s holding company, Tata Sons, is held by philanthropic trusts engaged in causes related to education, health, arts and culture, and environmental conservation.
Ratan Tata joined the Tata Group in 1962 and worked with Tata Steel, Nelco, Tata Industries, and Tata Motors before being appointed the Group chairman in 1991. Taking over the reins from the revered J.R.D. Tata who led the industrial conglomerate for 53 years, he was faced with the challenge of equipping the Tata Group to compete in the new era of economic reforms, globalization, and technological innovation. The new chairman initiated a series of successful strategies which streamlined the organization into a more unified conglomerate, made its operating companies more competitive and less risk averse, and committed the Group to investments in business ventures with a high-tech thrust.
In the 14 years since Ratan Tata assumed the mantle of leadership, the Tata Group has multiplied its revenues six times over and expanded its markets around the globe. According to Henry Schacht, former chief executive of Lucent Technologies, “Ratan is probably one of the three or four best business leaders I have ever met. The genius of Ratan is he understood what needed to be done, and he understood how it needed to be done in India.”
Ratan Tata holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and completed an advanced management program at Harvard University. He serves on the boards of numerous organizations within India and throughout the world, including the Mitsubishi Corporation, JP Morgan Chase, and the Ford Foundation.
The government of India honored Ratan Tata in 2008 with its second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan. Forbes magazine put him at No. 59 on its 2009 list of the world’s most powerful people. Tata retired as chairman of the Tata Group in 2012, with Group revenues totaling more than $100 billion in 2011-12. He is currently chairman of two of the largest private-sector-promoted philanthropic trusts in India and serves on the board of trustees at Cornell University and the University of Southern California.