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Home > Business > Special

We've to keep our eyes on tomorrow: Tata | February 16, 2007

As India cheers the $12.1 billion Tata takeover of Corus, Ratan Tata told the world in no uncertain terms, what the Tata brand has stood for, for nearly 140 years.

Chairman, Tata Group, Ratan Tata says, "Integrity is very important to me. I have tried to continue the foundations of the group, in terms of operating with integrity and with a value system. And I would hope that will be followed after me, and that this is one of the strengths that we have. And differentiators that we have -- we should, in fact, nurture it, cherish it and fight for it ferociously."

He adds, "At the same time, I would not want that to also be linked to ultra-conservativeness, lack of aggression in the market-place and lack of vision. All of which I think in some ways we were branded with in the past. I think we have to be a Group for today, operating with our eyes on tomorrow, but operating with a sense of integrity and values."

R Gopalakrishnan, executive director, Tata Sons, agrees that the Corus buyout has "added a lot of stature to the Tata brand." But he does not feel that all this happened in one swoop, and feels that is a dramatic way to put it. But he adds, "The way the Corus acquisition went, it would have certainly given people the impression that the Tatas are persistent, they are principled and they like to win. And those are attributes which has been added to the brand."

The Tata brand does stand for integrity, trust and reliability. But in the past seven years or so, has there been a change in brand image?

Arun Nanda, chairman and managing director of Rediffusion DYR, says, "Yes, it has changed. How do I know it's changed? Because we have a study we do every two-years on 1,400 brands in India, which is proprietorial to us. So, we keep it in-house and I was looking at that study today and the brand has moved certain parameters -- if you can call that change. It has always been trusted, it's always been known to be a leader, it's always been reliable, but it has had weaknesses in certain parameters too."

"Over the last three studies that we have done, going over the last nine years, it has certainly moved to become a little more dynamic brand than it was ten years ago. This is possibly because of the new businesses that they have gone into."

So, how does the aam janta see the Tata brand right now?

Managing partner of Counselage and brand consultant to Tata Steel and the Taj Group of Hotels, Suhel Seth explains, "The one overriding, overarching benefit that the Tatas have always provided or brand Tata has always imparted is -- trust. It is trust in the manner in which they behave with their stakeholders, in the manner in which they conduct business, in the manner in which they even look at acquisitions -- but what I call a strategic leapfrogging. And I think, the Tatas for long have been in this game of internationalism -- it's only today because of Corus that you added a layer of jingoism to it!"

Out of a certain stubbornness -- which may be about personal leadership right from the top - the interesting bit is that the more the Tatas change, ironically, the more they remain the same.

But Gopalkrishnan says, "Every 20 years, the Tatas have done something really dramatic at its point in time, like setting up a hotel for the first time, a steel plant, a software company, launching an indigenous car, History has it all down and therefore I have always argued that contrary to the popular image -- that Tatas have stayed constant -- here is an 140 year old record - for literally every 20 years, you could mark something dramatic."

There is a brand finance study that pegs the Tata brand value at about $7.6 billion and a 103 on the list of 250 'most valuable brands in the world.' After acquiring Corus, this is value will rise further.

The Tata Group is a really diverse group, and now it's going to be more challenging for such a diverse group to build a global brand, or take that global brand even further.

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