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I don't want to go out on a wheelchair: Ratan Tata

Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata says if he had a firm successor in place after the small car is in production it would be a "terrific time to step away".

business Updated: Jan 06, 2008 17:46 IST

Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata, named among the most powerful global business heads, says if he had a firm successor in place after the small car is in production it would be a "terrific time to step away".

"I do not want to go out on a wheelchair," Tata told financial weekly Business World in an interview when asked about the succession issues in comparison with that faced by his predecessor J R D Tata.

He told the weekly that realistically his successor would need up to 18 months as handover time. "It should not be longer because the way things work, there would be tremendous pressure to unseat that person.

"It should be stated and that person should become known for filling the position and not just waiting in the wings. I know what happened in my case," he said.

Tata said his successor should have values and that is one of the issues that makes the question of succession so difficult. "The person must maintain our values, because they are, in a manner of speaking, the DNA of the group, the crown jewel of the group.
"You could play the game that others play, and you would probably grow faster and you would probably be more profitable, but you would be just like everyone else."

While expressing a great deal of satisfaction over the progress of Tata group and companies like Tata Tea, Tata Steel, Tata Motors and TCS, he said: "We need to do much more... We are not doing enough in terms of really generating IPRs (intellectual property rights), really getting involved into R&D as against just product development."

On the problems he envisaged in the near future for group companies, he said: "Not all of their succession is very clear and not all the management is deep enough to take care of sudden death or departure."

Asked whether Indian companies going abroad could hurt the country, he said: "I think it will. You will see established companies going overseas and establishing a robust base outside India and into India would come the opportunistic companies of the world," he said.

His comment comes on the heels Tata Steel completing acquisition of Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus for about $13 billion, the biggest buyout by an Indian company.

He, however, termed as "misconception" any idea relating to Tatas leaving India. "We have not left India. We have a higher level of investment in India compared to overseas."

"We believe in six-seven years we can have 30 million tonnes (of steel) from scratch in this country if we get captive iron ore and coal mines. But there is uncertainty so if there is opportunity we will go outside India," Tata said.

He, however, ruled out the possibilities of group holding company Tata Sons going public. "It is not something that we are actively considering. There are too many issues involved in it. For example, Tata Sons majority ownership is with the Trust and I think that the view is it should continue."

Taking Tata Sons public would not serve our purpose, he said.