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End Of An Era At The Iconic Bombay House

Scribes and camera persons have encroached the narrow by-lane leading to Bombay House, one of the oldest and the most iconic buildings in the heritage Fort area of south Mumbai, since morning.

There is a sense of excitement tinged with nostalgia in the air, almost symbolic with that part of the city, where reminiscences of the Colonial architecture of the British Rule are arguably more visible than any other part of the country.

One might be wondering what the hoopla is all about. Well, its the day, when one of the stalwarts of Corporate India, Mr. Ratan Tata retires from the Tata group after having served it so distinguishably in various capacities since joining in 1962. He became the chairman of the group in 1991, succeeding his uncle JRD Tata.

It's almost too much for this reticent and camera shy man, who drives by in his customary self-effacing way, in the modest 12000$ self-driven TATA made Indigo sedan.

But even a cursory glance at his achievements, would make you realize that the Mr. Ratan Tara, deserves all the publicity and fame that is coming his way.

TATA group's revenue grew manifold, from around Rs 10,000 crore in 1991 to around Rs 4,75,721 crore ($100.09 billion) during 2011-12.

The group,s market capitalization has grown from a paltry Rs 7,943 crore in 1991, under Tata's leadership it grew to 4.62 lakh crore($88.82 billion) last year.

The suave and tech savvy Business leader perhaps played the biggest role in transforming the erstwhile demure outlook of Indian Industry by shoving it on to a global platform with a spate of foreign acquisitions and mergers, making it believe it belongs.

Ratan Tata's vision to transform the group into a global giant led to acquisition of 55 companies. Some of the headline grabbing acquisitions were Tetley by Tata Tea for $450 million in 2000, steelmaker Corus by Tata Steel in 2007 for GBP 6.2 billion and the landmark Jaguar Land Rover in 2008 for $2.3 billion by Tata Motors. Now, overseas revenue of the group stands at $ 58 billion.

What makes his achievements even more remarkable is his consistency of the 'Tata DNA'. "This is especially with respect to value systems and ethical values. He has fully maintained that. As he says maybe in terms of growth and the rate of growth, the group had to sometimes pay a price, but because of him, the Tata Group did not compromise on values and on ethical business dealing.

This is in sharp contrast to other Business luminaries, like perhaps a Dhirubai Ambani, an industrial beacon in his own right, but often splitting public opinion in terms of business values and ethics.

These were most evident in his actions following the dastardly attack on Bombay by ten armed terrorists from across the border from November 26, 2008.

The group,s iconic property, The Taj Mahal Palace was one of the places ambushed. All categories of employees, including those who had completed just one day as casuals, were treated as being on duty during the time the hotel was closed, Relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the CST railway station surroundings, including the roadside vendors. During the time the hotel was closed, the salaries were sent by money order.

Mr. Ratan Tata personally visited the families of all the 80 employees who were affected in any manner, whether through death or injury.

A new trust was created by the Tatas in a record time of 20 days for the relief of employees. But not only his employees, even others, such as railways and police employees and pedestrians who had nothing to do with the Tatas, were offered compensation. Each one of them was provided a subsistence allowance of Rs. 10,000 per month for six months.

This was the most trying periods in the life of the organisation. Mr. Ratan Tata, went from one funeral to another over the worst three days of the city's life.

His ethics and patriotism were evident in his display of empathy to the needs of the burgeoning middle class with the launch of the Rs one lakh car, Nano ($2000). This was his brainchild and the group under his leadership persisted with the project even when forced to shift from Singur, where he was invited by Marxist Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, to Sanand in Gujarat at the invitation of Narendra Modi.

Although Nano could not live up to the expectations after its initial worldwide acclaim, the small car will still be remembered as Tata's desire to provide a "safer" option to many Indian lower-middle class families riding two-wheelers.

Nano's entry into the top car sales chart in India might provide the perfect swansong for this charismatic leader.

By resisting the charm of clinging on to the chairman,s position and passing on the baton to the young brigade, he has once again led by example.

Here's what his successor at perhaps the most coveted CEO position in India, Cyrus Mistry inherits from him as the new chairman of India's largest industrial house, Tata Sons:

Headquarters: Bombay House in downtown Mumbai

Operations: In more than 80 countries across six continents with exports to 85 countries

Areas of Business: Seven core areas -- information systems & communications, engineering, materials, services, energy, chemicals and consumer products

Group Turnover: $100.09 billion

Turnover Profile: 58 percent of revenues from overseas

Market Operations: 32 companies publicly listed with a combined market capitalization of about $88.82 billion (Which makes it bigger than Royal Bank of Canada, Unilever, Daimler AG, Hewlett-Packard Company and several other stalwarts)

Shareholder base: 3.8 million

Top Companies: Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Power, Tata Chemicals,
Tata Global Beverages, Tata Teleservices, Titan, Tata Communications and Indian Hotels

Foreign brands: Corus, Jaguar, Land Rover, Tetley, heavy vehicles unit of Daewoo Motors

Number of Employees: Over 450,000

Foundation: Set up in 1868 by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata

For investors who are interested in having a piece of this impeccable Indian behemoth, that is TATA, but are skeptical about leaving the American shores, there is some good news.

Two TATA group companies are listed on American stock exchanges.
Tata Motors(NYSE:TTM) listed on NYSE

Tata Communications Limited(TCL) listed on NASDAQ