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This article from Les Echos was translated by Worldcrunch and is republished here with permission.MUMBAI – On Friday, coinciding with his 75th birthday, Ratan Tata, the CEO of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata group, will officially retire. Although India will bid farewell to its most famous businessman, Tata has become much more than a national celebrity.
One can draw a long list of superlatives to make him stand out from his competitors: His firm is the oldest (founded in 1868), the biggest (with activities ranging from computing to hotels, automobile manufacturing to the retail industry), the most international, and also the one that has the best reputation regarding integrity and its overall contribution to Indian society. Ratan Tata has embodied all this since he rose to lead the empire in 1991.
The figure of this tall single man has become utterly familiar for every Indian. Still active although he is now in his seventies, his elegance is nonetheless of a discreet kind, to match his shy personality. This descendent of a 150-year-old industrial dinasty should not be mistaken for one of these new billionaires, the nouveaux riches who show off their staggering mansions, their yachts and their bad taste. Within the firm, people are happy that Tata does not appear in the rankings of India’s biggest fortunes, as the family only owns a small part of the capital of the empire named after it.
The tributes about to flow as Ratan steps down from the head of the conglomerate are because his achievements reach so wide, and so deep. First: He has managed to build a real industrial group. When Tata was appointed head of the conglomerate, its organisation was quite loose. Back then, Tata Sons owned only a small part of the firm’s companies, whose bosses thought they were not accountable.