A trained pilot, philanthropist, startup investor: There's nothing Ratan Tata can't do
On his 82nd birthday, here a look at what makes him loved by millions of Indians.
In 2011, he set up a new policy where the retirement age of non-executive directors was reduced from 75 years to 70 years to ensure a new beginning for his then successor Cyrus Mistry. He returned briefly for two-and-a-half months in 2016 before handing over the reins of Tata Sons to N Chandrasekaran, and was conferred with the title 'Chairman Emeritus'.
Now, he dedicates his time to philanthropy, and has taken up the full-time leadership role of Tata Trusts, the philanthropic arm that also own 66 per cent of the group holding company - Tata Sons.
While people at the office lovingly call him Boss, his assistant Shantanu Naidu thinks Tata is like a 'Millennial Dumbledore'.
On his 82nd birthday, here a look at what makes him the Man who is loved and appreciated by millions of Indians.
Tata's love for dogs is an open secret and has been well documented. From raving about his pets on social media to bonding with people over his passion for dogs, the businessman has never shied away from showing his fondness for the canines.
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Today would be the 14th birthday of my late dog, Tito. I still come home to two kind souls and meet so many others in and around the office. While few have the comfort of families, many struggle on the streets, and yet somehow, their affection remains the same. Those of you who strive for the welfare of the voiceless, truly have my respect.
According to a 2018 ETPanache report, a section of Bombay House 2.0 was allotted to stray dogs. The building that went through a nine-month-long restoration process and reopened last year was the home to stray dogs for many years, thanks to the chairman emeritus' love for them.
He not only invested in a startup - Dogspot, an online store for pet supplies, food, accessories and other products, but also offered the 27-year-old Naidu a job as his assistant after being impressed with his initiative of reflector-collars for stray dogs.
While he admits not being much active on social media, he recently made his debut on Instagram. And, within two month of that, he has already uploaded two canine-related posts.
Moreover, he is a proud owner of Dassault Falcon 2000 private jet, which is estimated to be worth $22 million. Sometimes, he also likes to take his jet out for a spin.
He is also known to fly several aircrafts that are a part of Tata Group's fleet.
Spending It Right
With his money parked in over two dozen startups, Tata is known as one of the most successful investors of all time, but an accidental one in his own words.
In a 2019 October report by Economic Times, Tata said he became a startup investor 'partly by accident'. When he was working with the Tata group, the startup sector excited him, but he always thought they were untouchable because of conflict of interest with his company.
After he retired, he started making small token investments in he considered were 'exciting companies'. After talking risks for two-three years, 'it became a learning experience'. He was quoted saying, "this sector is very active and has the best minds." Some of his investments include Ola, One97 Communications (that owns Paytm), Snapdeal, Zivame, UrbanClap, Abra, Kyazoonga, FirstCry, Bluestone, Lybrate, Holachef, Ampere, GOQii, CureFit, ClimaCell, CarDekho, UrbanLadder, Lenskart, NestAway, Dogspot, among others.
What intrigued Tata the most about a certain startup projects was the founder's attitude, maturity, fire in the belly, ideas, solutions, and seriousness. He also trusts his intuition when investing.
He also believes Indians are entrepreneurs at heart, and need an opportunity to flourish.
While he carries out investments through his personal investment firm RNT Associates, he clarified that "contrary to common belief his pocket is not so deep".
Philanthropy Is The Middle Name
The phrase 'with age comes wisdom' stands true to Tata. After his retirement in 2012, he completely shifted his focus to philanthropy and continued to be a custodian for the philanthropic legacy set up by Jamsetji Tata who was keen on bringing a positive social impact.
The philanthropist at heart always wanted to give back to society, and passionately worked to help the poor and less privileged across the country. He started heading Tata's philanthropic arm at the same time he took over the responsibility of Tata Sons.
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The Government of Odisha along with the Tata Trusts and the Norman Foster foundation set out to give the slum dwellers land rights and to transform slums into livable habitat under the “Jaga mission”. This involved geospatial drone mapping of the slums to designing the right neighborhood to inviting the slum dwellers to be a part of the process. It makes me so happy that the Government of Odisha was awarded with the World Habitat Award for this effort. After all, we are only as strong as the communities we empower.
The Trust currently focuses on various sections like healthcare, nutrition, education, water conservation, improving livelihood, digital transformation, social justice, skill development, environment, disaster relief, among other things. The organisation also looks at boosting sports, art and culture, and provides scholarship to students to enable them have a better future.
The Trust is also working in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle diarrhoea, according to a Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR).
In conversation with SSIR, the octogenarian business leader also suggested the philanthropists to do a thorough research before getting involved. "Today, a large amount of philanthropy in India is deployed in traditional forms like building a temple or a hospital. India has to move into a more sophisticated form of philanthropy that is designed to make a difference rather than just building edifices," he was quoted.
Growing Along The Way
The Government of India honoured the second and third highest civilian honours - Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan - to Tata in 2008 and 2000, respectively. The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2007 and UK's Institution of Engineering and Technology in 2008 awarded him an honorary fellowship.
He also received the honorary doctorate in Business, Science and Law from renowned institutions such as Ohio State University in 2001, University of Warwick in 2005, University of Cambridge in 2010, University of New South Wales in 2012, York University of Canada in 2014 and Singapore Management University in 2014, among others.
The Singapore Government was also conferred with the Honorary Citizen Award in 2007 for his valuable contributions to the country's growth and development.
After finishing his education in Architecture from Cornell University in 1962, Tata completed the Harvard Business School's seven-week Advanced Management Program in 1975. Harvard has a building 'Tata Hall' named after the businessman. After India became republic, he was the first Indian to receive the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, one of Britain's highest civilian honours.
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