Corruption in India is masked by the high rate of growth, says Ratan Tata

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 09, 2013 05:17 hrs

Ratan Tata, who recently stepped down as the Tata Group's head, has said that the biggest challenge for the $100-billion conglomerate's new Chairman Cyrus Mistry will be the country's business environment, which is going to be tougher and more complex than the crisis of 1991.

"The big picture challenge is that the (business) environment is going to be tougher and more complex than it was in 1991. In 1991, there were less people aspiring to succeed in this newly-opened economy. Today there are many," he said in an interview published by Time magazine.

Tata, who stepped down as head of the Tata group on December 28, after 21 years at its helm, was replying to a query about the biggest challenge for his successor. Mistry took over from him as chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the salt-to-software conglomerate.

Asked whether corruption was eroding investor confidence in India, Tata said: "It's been a concern to many of us for some time, but it has been masked by the very high rate of growth and prosperity of the country."

"It has led to a fair amount of crony capitalism and people like us have been concerned that it is not usually a level playing field as it should be," he said.

To queries about the Tata Group's involvement in the alleged irregularities in the telecom space and a lobbyist for the Tatas being being under surveillance, Tata said that the of investigative agencies had not only cleared the group, but also found it to be "disadvantaged among all the telecom players."

"Obviously, there were phone calls, which were absolutely innocuous, that were wiretapped," he said.

"We did nothing wrong, did nothing illegal, so no, I wouldn't have done anything differently," Tata, who was with the group for about 50 years, said in reply to a query on whether he would have done anything differently.

Asked how he felt about stepping down as chairman, Tata said: "I'm feeling very good. I'm looking forward to having time to do the things I want to do. And as far as I'm concerned, it's a relief."

He said he would have loved to have achieved a "flatter organisation" than it had ended up being. "These are issues of almost cultural pushback. We are a very hierarchical country. So to have a very flat organisation runs contrary to what the Indian wants to see. He wants to be better than the next guy," he said.

In reply to a query about the countries appearing robust to him, Tata said that he was quite bullish about the US and termed Africa as the real emerging giant.

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