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Ratan Tata on his major regrets, legacy

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 10, 2012 08:30 hrs
Tata group

​When he retires at the end of this year, Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata would have two major regrets.

First, not being able to make his salt-to-software conglomerate a flatter and more transparent organisation; and second, not being able to fully react to customer needs.

"Perhaps, internally, I have not been able to create the truly open, flat, transparent organisation that I had hoped we could," Tata said in an exclusive interview to Bloomberg's global TV network recently.



He also said his group, "traditionally, a manufacturing company in a sellers' market", did not succeed in "really embracing customers' values".

"I think we haven’t, as a group, been able to touch the levels of the population that I had hoped. The Nano is one example," he said.

He, however, hoped he would be able to pass on the legacy of successfully moving ahead without compromising on the value system and ethics.

"On what I want the legacy to be, I would say we achieved the growth and the prosperity that the group has had with the value system and ethical standards that we have tried to retain, and not succumb to pressures - the subjective pressures that exist to get things done," he said.

After retiring from the company's top post, Tata would spend time on philanthropic activities.

"I am going to continue as chairman of the foundation. I will focus on rural development, conservation of water, and my most visible goal is to do something in the field of nutrition for children and pregnant mothers in India, because that would change the mental and physical health of our population in the years to come," he said.

Tata Group, through its various charitable initiatives, spends about 4.5 per cent of its net profit on philanthropic activities, Tata said.

Energy, lack of water conservation and infrastructure were major stumbling blocks for the Indian economy, Tata said, adding, the "Indian tiger has not been unleashed yet". The country had the potential to become a powerful figure, he said, adding, "Serving the bottom of the pyramid is a real challenge for India."

On the global economic scenario, he said it "remains grim", as recovery in Europe would be difficult.

The US, he said, would recover faster than Europe, adding growth opportunities were more in Asia. "There may be increased protectionism in developed nations. Also, intra-Asia trade would increase."

Though India-China relations were not adversarial, these certainly were not the best, he said.

"For Indian cars, we will now be sourcing sub-assemblies from China. We will buy things like automatic transmissions, things which India doesn't yet produce... at prices that are unbelievable, which will help us," Tata said. "China is the largest auto maker and auto market in the world, and it is going to get even more predominant than it is today... China has produced cars which, in fact, exceed what India did in the same period."

On India's relationship with China, he said, "I would prefer to use China as a very strong ally to forge a relationship with, which would be a sustaining one. I think it could be done.”

On Monday, the company's shares fell 0.15 per cent to Rs 240.2 on the BSE.

"China is the largest auto maker and auto market in the world, and it is going to get even more predominant than it is today," Tata said. "China has produced cars which, in fact, exceed what India did in the same period of time."

Sales of Jaguar and Land Rover in emerging markets, including China, helped the company more-than-double the group's profit to a record $1.1 billion in the year ended March.

On India's relationship with China he said, "I would prefer to use China as a very strong ally to forge a relationship with, which would be a sustaining one. I think it could be done."

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