NEW DELHI:India’s Tata Group, whose steelmaking unit on January 30 outbid Brazilian rival CSN for Anglo-Dutch producer Corus, boasts an increasingly global stable of interests from tea and trucks to high-tech.-
A little over two years ago, Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata said he wanted the conglomerate to “spread its wings far beyond India.”Going global is just what it has been doing.Tata Steel is set to become the world’s fifth largest steel producer after beating CSN in an auction for Corus with a 13.7 billion-dollar bid. If completed, it would create a company with annual steel output of around 25 million tonnes per year and 87,000 employees, dwarfing all previous Indian foreign acquisitions.
The Tata Group has 96 firms in its stable and began emerging as a force in the world marketplace in 2000 when it bought Tetley Tea, Britain’s top tea-bag brand. Including the Tetley deal, it has spent more than three billion dollars in acquisitions in five continents, ranging from the Eight O’clock Coffee Co. in the United States to Daewoo Commercial Vehicle in South Korea.
The Tata Group is a colossus at home with revenues last year of 22 billion dollars, representing nearly three percent of India’s GDP, and is the biggest private employer with 222,000 people on its payroll.No other Indian group that is such a familiar part of Indian lives. Indians sport Tata watches, sip Tata tea, ride to work in Tata buses, drive Tata cars, phone using Tata networks, keep their homes air-conditioned with Tata-supplied power and holiday in Tata luxury hotels.
The group was founded in 1869, under the British colonial era, by Jamsetji Tata, who began a textile trading business in Mumbai and went on to construct the country’s first hydro-electricity plant and steel mill.Tata Steel, established in 1907, underlined the group’s fortunes. It is now India’s biggest private steel company.Aside from being a savvy businessman, Jamsetji had a social conscience. He accommodated his steel workers in a model company town while employees worked just eight hour days— unheard of in those days.
He passed on his philanthropic streak to his sons, who set up a charitable trust into which much of Tata’s profits are still funneled. Ratan Tata studied architecture at Cornell University in the United States and has an MBA from Harvard. A lanky, low-key bachelor, he took control of the behemoth in 1991. His takeover coincided with India’s economic liberalisation and an end to a socialist-style controlled economy that had hampered Indian business since the end of British rule in 1947.Since then he has shaken up what some outsiders called a sleeping dinosaur, pushing the development of high tech companies.
Tata Consultancy Services, for instance, is now India’s largest outsourcing company with revenues of three billion dollars.But his biggest change has been to turn the group’s vision outward to fuel growth. Overseas revenues now account for some 20 % of the group’s total income and by the time he retires in six years, analysts reckon that it could be at least 50 %.The United States -- a key target area -- accounts for nearly 30% of the Tata group’s annual international turnover of 6.7 billion dollars.