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Corporate Dec 3, 2012

Being Ratan Tata: What makes him a distinguished entrepreneur

By Sourav Majumdar and Sulekha Nair

What is it about Ratan Tata that makes him the distinguished entrepreneur that he is? Tata's style of functioning is characterized by his low profile as a person despite the fact that he holds one of the most important corporate positions in the land. Simply put, he likes to let his bat do the talking.

That he hardly gives interviews and rarely reveals his personal side makes him somewhat of an enigma in corporate circles. Tata Group insiders who have worked closely with him for long say it is his quiet resolve which is the hallmark of the man as a leader.

Brand Tata has gone up several notches under Ratan Tata's stewardship. Getty Images

"He has a silent determination which is often underestimated by his critics," says FA Vandrevala, Chairman and Managing Director, Hirco, who was managing director at Tata Power Company between 2002 and 2005.

Tata has been able to seamlessly straddle the diverse businesses in the group, making the Tata brand a global name. "He has ensured that the group companies are in safe professional hands. They have clear growth strategies as well," says Kavil Ramachandran, Thomas Schmidheiny Chair Professor of Family Business and Wealth Management and Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Indian School of Business.

Brand Tata, too, has gone up several notches under Ratan Tata's stewardship. That is why, Harsh Goenka,Chairman of the diversified RPG Enterprises says, "he is identified as the keeper of the Tata flame". Colleagues call him imaginative and laud his ability to advocate what he believes in and successfully sell a business idea both internally and outside the group.

"Ratan Tata is passionate about what he believes in," points outR Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director, Tata Sons.

And Tata is quick, too. Says Kishor Chaukar, former managing director, Tata Industries and Chairman of Tata Centre for Community Initiative (TCCI): "Ratan Tata takes a decision which is his, but it comes about after a lot of internal discussions. It is not correct when people say that he dithers when it comes to taking a decision. In the 14 years that I have been here, no decision of significance has taken more than 24-48 hours."

His style, his senior managers say, is highly delegative. "He delegates enormously if he believes what you will do is good for the business. For instance, I have raised issues regarding risks and costs and he has said, 'Do it.' He allows you to define parameters of resources and time limits and then lets you do it," says Chaukar.

Even other entrepreneurs who don't know him that well applaud the energy he has brought into the group. Says Harsh Mariwala, Chairman and Managing Director of consumer goods major Marico: "I don't know Tata, but as an entrepreneur, he has delivered the right mechanism which has enabled the group to foster growth."

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