End of an era: Ratan Tata retires
Celebrated Tata Motors Chairman, Ratan Tata, will retire today after being at the helm for over two decades.
Ratan Tata, who turns 75 today, will step down as chairman of Tata Sons, the parent holding company of Tata Motors. Tata joined the Tata group in 1962 and became chairman in 1991.
Tata’s time at the helm of the group has been the stuff of legend. He has been instrumental in transforming Tata Motors from primarily a bus and truck maker to a true Indian carmaker with a strong global presence. It was Tata who was instrumental in renaming the company from Telco(Tata Engineering and locomotive company) to Tata Motors in 2003.
The first passenger vehicles under Ratan Tata's stewardship were the 407-LCV based Sierra and Estate way back in 1991. Though the two didn't meet sales success they formed a great learning curve for the company's next bug hit, the Sumo in 1994, which proved to be a massive success in the fleet operations market.
However, the biggest success came in 1998 when the Indica, India's first indigenously made hatchback was launched. The Safari SUV followed the same year and has become a legend in its own right.
Ratan Tata brought cabin comfort for the occupants to the forefront. He had famously remarked when asked about the Indica before its launch "It will be a car not much bigger than your average hatchback but with the space and comfort of a sedan."
But the biggest involvement from Ratan Tata came in his dream project – the Rs 1 - lakh car. The Nano when launched in 2008 became an instant media hit across the globe and was instantly recognized as a hallmark of packaging and innovation. Tata famously said "Today's story started some years ago when I observed families riding on two wheelers, and I asked myself whether one could conceive of a safe, affordable, all weather form of transport for such a family."
Though only the base version of the car, which didn't even offer an AC cost the proverbial Rs 1-lakh Tata famously remarked, "a promise is a promise."
But the Nano wasn't without controversy when the Nano factory faced opposition in West Bengal it was Tata's vision that saw Tata motors quickly shift out base from the politically volatile Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat.
It was however his passion for cars, which made Tata Motors acquire British luxury vehicle maker Jaguar Land Rover for $2.3 billion from Ford Motor in late 2008 coining the term reverse colonization an obvious indication how Indian companies were invading the UK and buying their legendary companies.
The Government of India honoured Tata with its second-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan in 2000 and Padma Vibhushan, in 2008.
Though Ratan Tata will continue as Chairman emeritus of the Tata board, the car industry will lose one of its most passionate car guys and a strong personality known as much for his strong view points at auto shows as he was for the automobiles his strong and clear vision helped create and deliver to so many.