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Ratan Tata says goodbye

A shareholder garlanded him, some offered him send-off gifts and yet others urged him to put his signature on the annual report. Ratan Tata, head of the $83.3 billion salt-to-software conglomerate of more than 100 operating companies, will retire in December when he turns 75.

business Updated: Sep 01, 2012 10:50 IST
New Delhi,Tata Group,Ratan Tata

A shareholder garlanded him, some offered him send-off gifts and yet others urged him to put his signature on the annual report. Ratan Tata, head of the $83.3 billion salt-to-software conglomerate of more than 100 operating companies, will retire in December when he turns 75.

Tata then thanked the shareholders for their sentiments and warmth at the Tata Global Beverages Ltd (TGBL) AGM in Kolkata on Friday. Ratan Tata gets lifetime achievement award

"This has been an equally emotional meeting for me. I think the warmth, the sincerity and the affection that has been displayed is something I will carry back with me through the remaining life of me. 'Tata helped identify roadmap for company'video-icon

"I am an emotional person. And I will not forget what you have meant to me in the years that I have needed you."

Most shareholders, however, raised concerns over the Singur fiasco and sought to know the groups' future plans for West Bengal.

Ratan Tata, who had to abandon the small car factory plans in Singur a couple of years ago due to political opposition, on Friday said his company could consider setting up a car plant in West Bengal provided there was "political friendliness" which he felt was absent.

"..There is no friendliness at the political level, but there is at the people level. The people are always friendly. ...Only when there is friendliness at the political level, we will think of it. We are an Indian group. We have no bias and prejudice. The group will not walk away from Bengal," Tata said. Nano wins Autocar 'Car of the Year' awardvideo-icon

In his last appearance as chairman of Tata Global Beverages (formerly Tata Tea), he said there was no bias or prejudice in his group companies.

"Who knows, there could be a Tata Motor factory somewhere in West Bengal... We are an Indian group. There is no bias, no prejudice. Not at all. The group will not walk away from Bengal," he said.

Tata, who seemed emotional in his address to shareholders, said "Singur is something which does not anger me, but a sense of sadness as we could not bring it here".

Flanked by executive deputy chairman of Tata Sons Cyrus Mistry and new managing director of Tata Global Beverages Harish Bhat, Tata said the Singur case was sub judice. "We will honour the outcome and respect the wishes of the West Bengal government".

Tata Motors had to abandon the car project in 2008 following intense political unrest.

Tata said that he had affinity for the people of West Bengal for their warmth and affection.

"We have built a world class cancer hospital in the city. We wanted to bring the car factory here. I lived in Jamshedpur for six years and used to come to Kolkata often," Tata said. An emotional Ratan Tata

"This has been an equally emotional meeting for me. I will be back sitting with you in future.I will carry back the warmth and affection showed towards me and remember till the end of my life. I am a very emotional person," he said.

Mamata vs Tata
Tata Motors had earlier planned the mother plant of its dream small car project, later named Nano, to be set up at Singur in the state.

The previous Left Front government under the chief ministership of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya acquired close to 1000 acre in 2006 under the land acquisition act of 1894 for the mother plant and the vendor park.

The then principal opposition party Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee agitated against the land allotment.

It contended that 400 acre were acquired from farmers who unwillingly parted with their land and it should be returned to them.

Banerjee had said the plant could come up on 600 acre and the vendor park could be located elsewhere near to the plant.

With none of the three parties relenting from their stands, Tata Motors finally decided to abandon the project in October 2008. Tata abandons Nano project from Singurvideo-icon

With Trinamool Congress coming to power in 2011, the state government moved the court seeking return of 400 acres to the farmers.

The case is pending with the Supreme Court.

Tata group's five chairmen from 1868-2011
The country's sprawling $67 billion Tata conglomerate is searching for a successor to chairman and chief executive Ratan Tata. Below is a brief history of the five chairmen in the group's 143-year history.

1868-1904: Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata laid the foundation of what would grow to become the Tata group. He trained in England and established a trading company and textile mills in India. He set up The Indian Hotels Company and built the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, India's first luxury hotel, which opened in 1903.

He also established the JN Tata Endowment to encourage Indian scholars to take up higher studies. It was the first of many philanthropic trusts by the Tata Group, which today control 65.8% of the shares of Tata Sons, the group's holding company.

1904-1932: Sir Dorab Tata established the Tata Iron and Steel Company (now Tata Steel). In 1907, he set up its first office overseas, Tata Ltd in London. He built the Tata Oil Mills Company to make soaps, detergents and cooking oils, which was sold in 1984 to the company now called Hindustan Unilever.

1932-1938: Sir Nowroji Saklatwala, Jamsetji's sister's son. Died of a heart attack after a brief stint at the top.

1932-1991: Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata. Known as JRD, he was the longest-serving chairman of the group. In 1932, he founded Tata Aviation Service (now state-owned Air India). Also founded Tata Chemicals (1939), Tata Motors and Tata Industries (both 1945), Voltas (1954), Tata Tea (1962), Tata Consultancy Services (1968) and Titan Industries (1984).

1991-2011: Ratan Tata. He founded Tata Teleservices and also designed and launched the Indica, India's first indigenously developed car. Under his reign, the group acquired VSNL, India's top international telecom service provider.

He took Tata Consultancy Services public in 2004 and designed and launched the Nano, the world's cheapest car, in 2008.

He led the acquisitions of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus, British luxury auto brands Jaguar and Land Rover and British tea firm Tetley.

Also formed a joint venture between the Tata group and American International Group Inc.

(Inputs from agencies)

First Published: Aug 31, 2012 13:46 IST