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Ratan Tata: Nerves of steel prevail
January 31, 2007 11:34 IST
Every Tata has his legacy and Ratan Tata, the man with a rare mix of grace, composure and steely nerves, has created his own by winning the Corus battle against odds just as he steered the people's car project at Singur in West Bengal.
Since taking the reins of the $21.9 billion Tata business empire in 1991, Ratan Tata, 69, has only steeled the group's reputation of integrity, goodwill and competence.
To the Indian polity, Tata, who is heading the Investment Commission, is an apolitical policymaker, while to corporate India, he is a great visionary and for the group, he is an outstanding entrepreneur.
The takeover of the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker is especially close to the heart of Ratan Tata, as it coincides with Tata Steel's 100th year. Tata Steel was founded in 1907 despite hurdles from the then British colonial masters.
But it took a lot of perseverance on his part before the Corus deal was finally clinched.
"I am unfortunately a person who has often said, 'you put a gun to my head and pull the trigger or take the gun away, I won't move my head,'" Tata remarked recently, offering a rare glimpse of the determined mind.
This one deal has yet again demonstrated as to why Tatas are a household name in India and now across the globe.
"We did everything in small increments so we always lagged behind," Tata had said in a comment posted on the group's website in August.
The Corus deal is a "defining moment for Tata Steel," Ratan Tata had said in October last year after launching a recommended bid for the Anglo-Dutch steel firm.
The last five years have seen Tatas emerging as India's biggest acquirer of global entities, adding one company after another to the kitty of the group, which otherwise is also a major expansion drive with an investment of over Rs 180,000 crore (Rs 1,800 billion) in the next 5-7 years.
Therefore, it doesn't come as a surprise that he is many a times asked to lead corporate giants, along with the Prime Minister, to showcase India as an investment destination.
Tata Group's largest acquisition before Corus was worth just $677 million for a 30 per cent stake in the US- based Energy Brands Inc, popularly known as Glaceau, in August 2006.
The group has 96 companies in its fold, with operations in 54 countries spanning six continents, exports to 120 nations, a market capitalisation of $52 billion and a workforce of 246,000.
Its revenue is equivalent to 2.8 per cent of India's GDP.
With the acquisition of Corus, Tata Steel is eyeing a capacity of 40 million tonnes by 2012 and revenues of $32 billion from $5 billion at present.
Ratan Tata, a silent crusader, could continue as the Chairman of Tata Sons till 2012, with the group approving retirement of executives at the age of 75 instead of 70.
The acquisition is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, who in the late 1800s founded the business empire, later built by his son Jamsetji Rustamji Dorabji Tata, fondly referred as JRD.