Ratan Tata – An Epitome of Humility and Valor

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Imagine being born in the pre-independence era of India; in the late 1930s. Your parents have divorced, your father has remarried, you live with your grandmother and you’ve got a step-sibling.And hey, you still have hundreds of people claiming you’re a lucky child because your family earns more money than the most. Ha!

The life story of Ratan Naval Tata is very reminiscent of famous comedian Jim Carrey’s quote, in which he mentioned, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.”

While thousands are born with a silver spoon, it takes the right kind of man to turn that spoon into gold. Here are some untold stories of the former chairman of the ‘Tata Sons’ that will not only inspire you but would also heal all the wounds, self-doubt, anxiety and solitude has left on you.

The first lines in his story were written years before he was even born. It all started when his grandmother, Navajibai Sett, adopted his father, Naval Tata. Years later, he was born to Sonoo Tata, the first wife of his father. Ratan Tata was forced to grow up quicker than the children his age, after his parents divorced when he was just 7 years of age. He lived with his grandmother while also taking care of his younger brother, Jimmy Tata. He was a scared child looking for someone to give him some direction, which he couldn’t buy from any sum of money.

Thankfully, his grandmother became his backbone, helping him grow into adulthood, while she grew older. And while no compromises were made on his education, no school could teach him what it was like to live in a sheltered house with parents being your roof.

He also had a step-brother by the name of Noel Tata and this addition of relation started with controversies in his family. However, despite all the personal turmoils and demons he had to face every day, he never stopped.

He educated himself intending to make his own identity in a family full of bright names. Against all the odds, he went to America and studied Architecture. Hereby, deciding that he knew he was going to prove to be right. If he could push himself through the darkest time of his life, can’t we too?

“Stay strong and you are unstoppable”

In those days, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Science was very uncommon. However, he completed the degree and went on to work with IBM as an employee. Instead of being the boss of an empire straight away, he worked on building his life’s fundamentals. 

His uncle, Mr. J.R.D. Tata pressurized him to leave America. He wanted him to return to his homeland and move the family legacy forward. The former chairman of the ‘Tata Group’ eventually returned to India but instead of running an empire, he was shoveling limestone and handling blast furnace. Even while doing the most menial tasks, he had faith in himself and kept pushing himself forward.

What do you think is worse: working no less than a laborer or being put in charge of a collapsing company? That’s what Mr. Tata’s next challenge was.

He was asked to be the lifeguard of a drowning company called ‘NELCO’. Without any complains, he gave NELCO all of his focus, strength, and energy. He invested his 10 long years and drastically changed the face of NELCO. From a barely alive company, he turned it into a revenue-generating giant. Alas, it didn’t survive the economic crisis!

Mr. Tata’s years of blood and sweat turned into ashes right in front of his eyes. But, that never stopped him. He knew he couldn’t stop flapping his wings mid-air or else it would all fall to pieces. He had, after all, promised himself he was not going to stop flying.

“Do not ever put yourself in a box that will never open”

It was his uncle ‘The father of Indian Civil Aviation’, Mr. J. R. D. Tata that saw unyielding potential in him and he had resolute conviction in his skills, so he handed over the chairmanship of Tata Group to Mr. Ratan Tata. 

One may assume that being the nephew of India’s first commercial Airline founder ‘Air India’, it was but natural that the chairmanship was handed over to him but nothing came easy to Mr. Tata.

For everybody else, Mr. Ratan Tata was the leader of failing companies. Everybody rebelled simply with the idea of having him be the chairman of such a huge global venture. His inexperience led to constant doubts and turmoils. Mr. Tata was in a position where he had the authority to make all decisions but no respect!

Even though the list of criticism was longer than appreciation, he worked towards building the TATA EMPIRE on five basic principles :

  • INTEGRITY
  • UNITY
  • UNDERSTANDING
  • EQUALITY
  • RESPONSIBILITY

Mr. Tata revolutionized the face of Tata Industries by taking decisions nobody ever dared to. He set the retirement age, made all individual companies report it’s operations to the group office. Moreover, he made everyone contribute some of their profits for various charitable purposes. He always set innovation as a priority. The philanthropist Mr. Tata, had younger talent infused within the organization and given responsibilities. He solely synergized the entire operations of the Tata group! 

He always believed that united we stand, divided we fall! Through all the resistance, he never faltered… 

“Do not doubt yourself. There are many people who will do that for you”

Mr. Ratan Tata’s brainchild, the ‘Tata Indica’ car which was just newly launched suffered a major loss. All his investors suggested him to sell the Tata Motors company to generate revenues. So, he went to America, walked into the Ford office and had a three-hour-long meeting with Mr. William Ford. The great-grandson of Henry Ford very arrogantly insulted Mr. Ratan Tata’s intellectual capabilities. He told Mr. Tata, “You do not know anything, why did you start the passenger car division at all. We will do you a favor by buying your car division’’

Mr. Tata walked out of the office feeling hurt and humiliated than ever. He came back to India and learned everything about cars, he analyzed the tiniest trick in the market about the Motors Sector. 

You’d be shocked to know that a few years later, Tata Motors flourished while Ford’s Jaguar Landrover series saw major losses. The tables had turned and now it was Mr.William Ford who walked into the Tata Group office in India with hopes of being able to sell their Land-Rover series for the generation of revenues. 

Mr. Ratan Tata, being a humble man he is, didn’t utter a single word rehashing what was done to him. In the end, the present executive chairman of the Ford Motors Company told him, “You are doing us a big favor by buying JLR” while thanking him profusely.

Today, Mr. Ratan Tata has single-handedly globalized Tata Groups into a gigantic business. An Indian origin firm now made giant acquisitions of companies like Tetley, Jaguar, Landrover, Corus. He has invested in multiple online platforms like Snapdeal, Paytm, Xiaomi and so many more e-commerce platforms!

The Tata Group is not just a business but it’s an empire. It is every employee’s dream to walk in their team and be a part of it.

Mr. Ratan Tata has had a humongous change in his life; from picking up limestone to having a long-line of loyal employees! 

Through all the struggles, the Padma Vibhushan recipient never stopped. Why? Because he is a genius. A genius knows the art of failing and reinventing himself again and again over time.

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So Let’s Dream Big.

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