Ratan Tata, having placed his salt-to-software industrial group on the world map with a global footprint in his 21-year-old reign as chairman of the Tata empire, told the conglomerate's 450,000 employees in a sign-off letter as he retired that they faced a tougher economy and needed to master the art of reinventing themselves.
The man who gave way on Friday to successor Cyrus Mistry mixed home truths with business sermons in his last communication as chairman of the $100 billion group, arguably India's most respected .
"The difficult economic environment that we face in the current year will most likely continue through most of the next year," Tata said in the farewell letter to colleagues. Full text of letter
"We will probably see continued constraints in consumer demand, over-capacity and increased competition from imports. There will therefore be great pressure on our companies to reinvent themselves in terms of business processes and to dramatically reduce costs, to be more aggressive in the market and to widen our product range to better address consumer needs," he said. However, this gloomy phase would pass soon, he said.
The economy is staring the worrying prospect of recording a ten-year low growth of less than 6% in 2012-13, hit by a sharp slowdown.
Tata, however, was optimistic of a fast turnaround in the economy, which until recently was an engine for global growth.
"I feel confident that the robust growth that India has shown over the past several years will be re-established and the strong fundamentals in the country will result in India once again taking its place as one of the economic success stories of the region," he said in the letter.
Tata paid rich tributes to employees attributing the group's success to their "amazing spirit, the dedication" and the "enormous support and faith reposed" in his leadership.
"I feel immensely proud of the manner in which the employees and the companies have come together in facing crises from time to time. These have included adverse market conditions, natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis and gruesome acts of terrorism," he said. The last was a reference to the 26/11 terrorist strikes in the Tata-owned Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.
After multiplying his group's revenues by nearly several times since he took charge in 1991 and then having ensured a smooth transition to Mistry, Tata said the group will "undoubtedly play an important role in the continued development of our country, providing leadership in various industrial segments in which they operate and living by the value systems and ethical standards on which our Group was founded."