PEO PLE An extraordinary hero IT TAKES CONFIDENCE TO BUILD IN A CRISIS. FACED WITH THE WORST RECESSION IN A GENERATION, THAT IS WHAT RATAN TATA DID WHEN HE ACQUIRED (AND ARGUABLY SAVED) JAGUAR LAND ROVER WORDS: Gavin Green / PHOTOGRAPHY: Peter Hapak 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. It 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 (JLR), 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”. For a man whose name is everywhere in India, he keeps out of the limelight 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. Soon after Tata bought JLR 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 sales would flourish again. We needed more products. With great new products the company had a chance. So we invested.” While many rivals were cutting back on funding new models, Tata invested heavily. With financing mostly from Indian banks, JLR began developing a string of new vehicles that would become global successes, including the latest aluminium-bodied Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, the Jaguar F-TYPE and XE and 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.” Tata’s boldness proved a masterstroke. As the world woke from recession, JLR was ready with new vehicles. In the past six years turnover has tripled, “EVERYTHING THAT SUBSEQUENTLY HAPPENED IS A DIRECT RESULT OF THE SPIRIT OF THE WORKFORCE” while sales and employment have doubled. Recently, JLR 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 56 j THE DESIGN ISSUE
“I’M VERY FORTUNATE, IN THAT I BELIEVE I CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE” 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.” 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 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. “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.” THE DESIGN ISSUE j 57
Jaguar Magazine celebrates creativity in all its forms, with exclusive features that inspire sensory excitement, from beautiful design to cutting-edge technology.
In this issue, we explore the art of creativity from the Brazilian masters who devised the graceful art of Capoeira, to the Irish artists mixing new culture with old. You will also discover the creative line that links Victorian wallpaper to the iPhone. While the multi-talented actor and performer, Riz Ahmed, explains why it is the right time to reveal his true self to the world.
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