6 years ago

March 2016

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Meet Ratan Tata | Travel through the Outback in a Discovery Sport | Head to California in search of the Lost Coast | Sir Paul Smith and his bespoke Defender | Grass roots Rugby

RATAN TATA The Tata name

RATAN TATA The Tata name appears on more products than any other brand in India, from big trucks to small cars, from mineral water to mobile phones. Tata has interests in chemicals and construction, mining and media, refrigeration and renewable energy, drugs and defence, hotels and health, telecoms and IT. In the UK, Tata’s contribution to the nation’s industrial health, while important, is more discreet. Nowhere does the Tata name appear on Jaguar or Land Rover vehicles. Yet it is Ratan Tata – now emeritus chairman of the Tata group – who, more than anyone else, is responsible for the remarkable recent success of Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s biggest automotive employer and investor, and the country’s largest producer of cars. As CEO Ralf Speth told Auto Express magazine a few years ago, “without Ratan Tata, Jaguar Land Rover wouldn’t exist anymore”. In many ways, Ratan Tata saved the British motor industry. For a man whose name is everywhere in India, Ratan Tata likes to keep out of the limelight. He gives few media interviews and lives modestly in Colaba, in south Mumbai. His well-documented enthusiasm for cars began early. “My first encounter with a Jaguar was when I was a school boy. My father had an XK120. At the time, we didn’t appreciate what it was. It was just a two-door roadster Father used to feel young in. I’d ride with him. When I went to college, I tried to buy a similar model from a fellow student. I test-drove it, but I couldn’t afford what he wanted for it.” It was this passion for cars, and a keen eye for spotting business opportunities, that attracted him to buying Jaguar Land Rover, from Ford, in 2008. It was a gamble, he admits, and he now says with some frankness that there were times when he “wasn’t very confident” of turning around the fortunes of these two famous brands. “Tata was the second biggest maker of SUVs in India and I thought Land Rover would be a good fit.” Soon after Tata bought Jaguar Land Rover for .3 billion, Lehman Brothers went bust, and the worst recession of modern times hit. The timing, for Tata, could not have been worse. “Of course there were many moments when we wondered what we’d done. I was convinced the thing to do was to trust my instinct. I felt the recession wouldn’t be a long one and I was convinced that SUV sales would flourish again. We needed more products. With great new products the company had a chance. Otherwise, it had no chance. So we invested.” While many rivals were cutting back on funding new models, Tata invested heavily. With financing mostly from Indian banks, Jaguar Land Rover began developing a string of new vehicles that would become global successes, including the latest aluminiumbodied Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, the Jaguar F-Type and XE and, most significant of all, the Range Rover Evoque, which went on to become the fastest-selling model in Jaguar Land Rover’s history. “During the recession I saw the workforce a number of times and said, ‘let’s work side by side to help restore the glory of these two brands’. Everything that subsequently happened is a direct result of the spirit of the workforce and of the Jaguar Land Rover management.” An earlier decision to close one of the three Jaguar Land Rover UK factories was reversed: “We needed “ I B E L I E V E I C A N the production capacity for our new MAKE A DIFFERENCE” cars,” he judged. Tata’s boldness proved a RATAN TATA masterstroke. As the world woke from recession, Jaguar Land Rover was ready with new vehicles. In the past six years turnover has tripled, while sales and employment have doubled. Recently, Jaguar Land Rover has been one of the world’s fastest-growing premium carmakers. A new plant in China opened last year, and upcoming factories in Brazil and Slovakia – supplementing four UK plants, including an engine factory in Wolverhampton – will satisfy global demand. “It’s been a very rewarding experience. I’m very proud of everything that has happened and have enormous admiration for what Ralf [Speth] and his team have done. I had confidence and infused money at the time it was needed, but I did it with great nervousness because the numbers here [in India] were very large.” We meet in the Elphinstone Building in south Mumbai, not far from Tata’s global headquarters in Bombay House, where Ratan Tata ran the Tata group, 26

From top: Ratan Tata; a 1950 Jaguar XK120, the model Tata rode in with his father as a boy; the Range Rover Evoque – the fastest-selling model in Jaguar Land Rover history as chairman, from 1991 to 2012. Nearby Elphinstone College, part of the University of Mumbai, is where Jamsetji Tata – the founder of Tata and ‘Father of Indian Industry’ – was educated. Named after a former British governor, the Elphinstone is where Ratan Tata now works, mostly for Tata Trusts, doing charity for a range of good causes. “At the moment, my main activity is trying to combat malnutrition in women and children. This is a serious problem in India. We’re trying to embed iron in wheat, rice, milk and salt and add other micronutrients so that in 10 or 15 years the next generation of Indians will be stronger mentally and physically.” Tata is a highly unusual conglomerate in that its holding company is 66% owned by charitable trusts. A majority of the profit gets distributed to charities, including medical, education, alleviation of poverty, the arts and culture. “It was a very enlightened move by my ancestors. The founders bequeathed their company to charity. It was giving profits back to the people.” Ratan Tata is also a high-profile advocate of tackling global warming. To coincide with last December’s Paris climate conference, he joined industrial and tech heavyweights, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and Jack Ma, to launch the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group devoted to speeding up the development of green energy through investment. His philanthropy even extends to the stray dogs of India. “It started just after I became chairman. It was the rainy season and one stray sought shelter inside our headquarters. I said, ‘don’t push him out’ and then word must have spread because more appeared. “I’m pleased to have grown the group in a [business] environment where high values and ethics were sometimes difficult,” he says of his legacy. “We maintained those values. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more sensitive to the disparity in wealth and prosperity and, deep down, there’s been an urge to make a difference. I’m very fortunate, in that I believe I can make a difference.” INSPIRED TO HELP? To find out more about Tata Trusts projects, visit 27

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