India’s largest conglomerate Tata Sons is back in the hands of eminent industrialist Ratan Tata after the sudden sacking of Cyrus Mistry. Here are key things you need to know about the company.
What is the Tata Group?
It is arguably India’s most famous family conglomerate. Established by Parsi industrialist Jamsetji Tata under British colonial rule in 1868, the sprawling steel-to-salt conglomerate is now worth more than $100 billion and operates in more than 100 countries globally. Tata Sons is the holding company of the Tata Group.
What are its main businesses?
There are very few areas into which Tata has not ventured, with the group dealing in everything from salt and tea to watches, luxury cars and opulent five-star hotels.
Its most high-profile companies are India’s largest carmaker Tata Motors, which owns Britain’s Jaguar Land Rover, the IT outsourcing giant Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Tata Steel, Tata Global beverages and Tata Chemicals.
The Tata Group is also in telecommunications through its company Tata Teleservices while its hotel chain runs Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace and other high-end establishments.
Tata’s tentacles have stretched across the globe in recent years as it went on a buying spree, picking up a number of major names including Britain’s Tetley Tea and the Anglo-Dutch steel firm Corus.
Who’s in charge?
Ratan Tata -- for the next four months anyway. The media-shy septuagenarian has taken interim charge, four years after making way for Mistry, and is leading the hunt for a new successor.
Tata took the reins of the group in 1991 and led it for 21 years during which he was credited with driving its expansion abroad in the 2000s.
Each Tata company operates independently and has its own board of directors answerable to shareholders. Notable CEOs include Guenter Butschek at Tata Motors and Natarajan Chandrasekaran of TCS.
What challenges does Tata face?
Like many businesses, it’s facing major headwinds in the form of the sluggish global economy, volatile currencies and fluctuating commodity prices. Tata Group’s revenue slipped 4.6 percent for the financial year ended March while a number of its firms have their own problems.
Tata Steel is the most notable. It’s struggling to find a buyer for its huge loss-making British assets, with 15,000 jobs in the UK at risk, while TCS profits are down as clients tighten their purse strings.
Tata Motors is also bearing the brunt of weak sales of its luxury unit Jaguar Land Rover, while Japanese mobile services provider NTT Docomo is demanding Tata coughs up a $1.17 billion arbitration payment awarded at an international hearing.
How will the leadership change affect Tata’s British interests?
That’s not easy to answer. What is clear however is that Ratan Tata is a proud Anglophile and fond of his investments in Britain. He became increasingly frustrated at Mistry’s focus on divesting loss-making assets and was saddened by the battering that Tata’s reputation was taking in Britain over the uncertainty surrounding its steel assets, according to analysts.
He could be reluctant to sell something he bought which could mean good news for British steel workers. But at the same time the change of leadership may create more uncertainty as British business leaders had been meeting with Mistry fairly regularly in a bid to reach a financial deal.