Ratan Tata steps down, hands reins to Mistry

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 28, 2012 21:34 hrs

Ratan Tata stepped down on Friday as chairman of the Tata group, handing the reins to his successor Cyrus Mistry and ending a 50-year-run at the salt-to-software conglomerate that made him one of India's most respected business icons.

The retiring chairman of the $100 billion group, who turned 75 on Friday, spent much of his last day with employees in the manufacturing facilities of Tata Motors in Pune.

"At the request of the union, I spent the day - my last day prior to retirement, in the Tata Motors´ various manufacturing facilities at Pune to say farewell to my shop floor colleagues. We have been together in good times and bad and have gained closeness based on mutual trust," he said on his Twitter profile.

He said in his Twitter message that going to the plants and receiving greetings from so many colleagues was a great emotional experience.

"I have been deeply moved by the sincerity and spontaneity of their greetings. I will always carry memories of this day with me through the rest of my life," Tata said.

In a farewell letter to his employees, he said, "Over the past 20 years our revenues have grown about 20 times and today 58 percent come from overseas operations. Our brand has emerged as the 45th global and the number one Indian brand. Our products and services are present in 85 countries."

"We therefore have every reason to feel proud and feel confident in facing the challenges ahead.The difficult economic environment that we face in the current year will most likely continue through most of the next year," Tata added.

The company will now be led by 44-year-old Cyrus P. Mistry who was chosen as Tata's successor last year.

Tata headed the group for 21 years and transformed it from just another business house to a global brand with high-profile acquisitions abroad and net worth of over $100 billion.

Tata had commenced his career in the Tata group in 1962 and initially worked on the shop floor of Tata Steel, shovelling limestone and handling the blast furnace.

In 1991, JRD Tata stepped down as Tata Industries chairman, naming Ratan Tata as his successor.

Tata has served in various capacities in organisations in India and abroad.

He is a member of the Prime Minister´s Council on Trade and Industry.

Tata is on the board of governors of the East-West Center, the advisory board of RAND´s Center for Asia Pacific Policy and serves on the program board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation´s India AIDS initiative.

Tata, among other achievements, will be remembered for the Rs 1 lakh Tata Nano car.

Though it has not been as as big a hit as expected, people will remember his efforts to provide a "safer" conveyance to the not-so-rich.

In his glorious career, Tata received the Padma Bhushan, one of India's most distinguished civilian awards, in 2000 and Padma Vibhushan in 2008 and Lifetime Achievement Award presented by prestigious Rockefeller Foundation in 2012.

Speaking about Tata, JJ Irani, Former Director, Tata Sons, told ET Now: "What Ratan Tata has left behind is that he has taught the group to think big. When he took over, I do not think our combined turnover was even $10 billion. In the last 20 years, it has increased to $100 billion."

"The opportunity was there. He grabbed it and he taught all the companies to think big and most importantly to think beyond the shores of India," he said.

Rahul Bajaj, Chairman of Bajaj Auto, said: "This is especially with respect to value systems and ethical values. He has fully maintained that. As he says maybe in terms of growth and the rate of growth, the group had to sometimes pay a price, but because of him, the Tata Group did not compromise on values and on ethical business dealing. So he has done a great job."

Former Telecom Minister Arun Shourie told CNN-IBN, "I remember that 20 to 25 years ago the Tatas were a collection of fiefdoms. These were very good people, but they were powers in their own right. Mr Darbari Seth was a formidable figure. Mr Rusi Modi, Mr Nani Pankhiwalia, these were wonderful people, but this was not a group."

"Ratan Tata slowly changed that or rather rapidly changed that nature of the group by bringing in persons of his own age group," Shourie said.

The Board of Directors of Tata Sons on Dec 18 announced the appointment of Cyrus P. Mistry as the Chairman of the Board.

The Board also conferred on Tata the honorary title of Chairman Emeritus.

Earlier on Dec 14, the Board of Directors of Tata Chemicals had announced the appointment of Mistry as the Chairman of the Board with effect from the same date.

A Director of Tata Sons since 2006, Mistry was appointed Deputy Chairman of Tata Sons in November 2011.

1968-born Mistry is the youngest son of Irish construction magnate Pallonji Mistry.

Mistry will be the sixth chairman of the group and the second not named Tata after Sir Nowroji Saklatvala.

Apart from the Tata Group, Mistry also serves as a director on the board of several other firms, including Shapoorji Pallonji & Co., Forbes Gokak, Afcons Infrastructure and United Motors (India).

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