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The other side of Ratan Tata

Three anecdotes with RNT

Anirudha Dutta
Published: 08, Jan 2013

Anirudha Dutta is former head of research at CLSA India Limited, a leading foreign brokerage house. While every number tells a story, there are many stories beyond numbers and both are equally important. This blog will attempt to tell some of these stories.

Ratan Tata

Much has been written about Ratan Tata's legacy and achievements over the last few weeks as RNT, as he is popularly referred to within the Tata group, hung his boots and handed over the baton to Cyrus Mistry. In his typical understated manner, RNT spent his last day as chairman of the group  in Pune, away from the limelight and not at Bombay House.

I want to mention three anecdotes when I have accidentally "encountered" RNT in Bombay House, which brings out a facet of  his personality which is oft mentioned but probably deserves greater highlighting in today's world. The first was when I was in a meeting with Ishaat Hussain, then Director Finance of Tata Sons. I was interviewing him for a website then when his phone rang. RNT was at the other end and he asked IH if he (IH) could join him for lunch since some dignitaries from a foreign bank or World Bank were dropping by. IH told RNT that he would take 15 or 20 minutes since he was in a meeting and if that was ok and RNT said it was perfectly fine. The meeting that IH was in was with me and was nothing important from IHs perspective. IH didn't rush me even after that and I got all the answers that I wanted. I couldn't help wondering even then on how many professionals could have done the same thing in any other organization whether with a professional CEO or a representative of the promoter family. I suspect we all know the answer.

The second "encounter" was when I was sitting a few years later with Dr J J Irani or Doc I, as he  was popularly referred to. If I remember correctly, this was just a week or two before Doc I retired as the MD of Tata Steel. During our conversation, RNT called up and asked if Doc I could come up to his office. The Tata Steel office was on the 3rd floor and the chairman's office was (and is) on the 4th floor. Doc I told RNT that he was in a meeting and would come up in 5-10 minutes. After I finished my interview and walked out to meet a few friends in Tata Steel, I saw RNT walking in and entering Doc I's office. How many CEOs or promoters would do that?

My third and last "encounter" was in October 2012. I had a meeting in Bombay House and as I stepped out of my car, just a few steps ahead of me was RNT. I stopped for a second hoping that he would walk ahead of me through the metal detector and I would follow. RNT stopped to have a word with his driver or his co-passenger and I walked ahead of him through the metal detector. In most, if not all other offices, the security would have stopped me and waited for the boss to go ahead. But not in Bombay House. As I walked in the  dogs adopted by Bombay House were all there in the lobby to greet RNT.

In today's world of bloated and fragile egos, RNT stands as an exception. His humility which sits naturally on him is unsung but there is a lesson in it somewhere for all of us. In a country where we are constantly reminded by the rich and powerful of "You don't know who I am", RNT is an exception. We need to celebrate this more as the alternate rather than just writing about billlion dollar mansions, Page 3 glorifications of larger and larger parties and hiring of Versailles Palace to celebrate marriages of sons and daughters. The other story is actually far more powerful, relevant and interesting. What do you say?


    I encountered much more greatness of dear Hon'ble Ratan Tata. In the year 1979 he was involved with TATA company NELCO. I was assembling Transistor radios in a small 1500 sq.ft factory in Malad. I had a very small table space of 5'X2' with two visitor chairs. Dear Ratan Tata came to visit my factory to encourage larger production & supply - since NELCO was facing Datta Samant strike. He came in a simple white Ambassador car accompanied by a manager. Dear Ratan Tata toured my small factory carefully & meticulously with interest. I had to offer my chair since it was the only comfortable chair in my small factory. Despite his hesitation to occupy my chair! after persuasions I could manage. There after he sat with Mrs. Shah & myself for more than an hour and discussed various aspects of my background in business and inquired of problems if any in business with NELCO. I mentioned few issues which he resolved on the spot by instructing manger who had accompanied him. I had opportunities of business with world leading companies such as MITSUBISHI of Japan and PHILIPS of the NETHERLANDS. I had visited their head quarters and also received their CEO in my factory. I pleasantly realised that business culture of TATA and humility of Dear Ratan Tata are incomparable with any other business establishment universally. I am proud to have been born in Bharat simply because such universally incomparable business organization exists here despite politically polluted environments and rapid growth of sprouting unethical business houses.

    on Jun 1, 2016
  • Padma

    The more we know, the more we like him. A hope that there are truly great leaders in India. No wonder he is a role model and a hero for so many across the globe.

    on Dec 2, 2015
  • Rama Kant Gupta

    Ratan is 'ratna' (gem beyond comparison). I wish to call up my countrymen to bless him for a long & healthy life. I also wish to give him few years from my life to add to him.

    on Sep 13, 2015
  • Bridging the Gap

    There are many such stories, not only about Mr. Tata, but the Tata Group as well. Most cannot be published as they bring about the stark contrast in what they (Tatas & RNT) stand for and what a cesspool the rest of the corporate world can be. And no one wants crazy laswuits. I can clearly recall the case of a tender for scores of buses coming out from one of the public transport companies. Tata Motors (TELCO then), refused to grease palms, unlike Ashok Leyland

    on Sep 12, 2015
  • What Does Rnt Stand For In Nursing | All about nursing

    [...] The other side of Ratan Tata – Much has been written about Ratan Tata’s legacy and achievements … out to meet a few friends in Tata Steel, I saw RNT walking in and entering Doc I’s office. How many CEOs or promoters would do that? My third and last “encounter” was in … [...]

    on Jul 10, 2015
  • pruthwiraj sai

    It is now for our country to pay back to him for all the works/sacrifices he has done for us all. He has taken his 100 + companies to new heights thereby giving employment to millions. If a sachin tandulkar managed to get a Bharat Ratna from a gate crashing congress party, then why not RATAN TATA through a national referendum. Referendum among the EDUCATED persons and not among QUALIFIED persons. Tata set a new bench mark of retirement @ 75 years which was adopted by Mr Modi for deciding the maximum age of the council of ministers. Yes, humility is a great thing. For example, 1000 years ago, our fore fathers were thinking that after 1000 years there would not be a single goat in the world as the all powerful tigers/lions would eat them all. But it is just the reverse. Goats have survived for their utility and humility. For the humility & nation building efforts/contributions of Sri Tata, he deserves the Bharat Ratna. Jai Subhas Bose, Jai Hind.

    on Apr 13, 2015
  • Anirudha Dutta

    Thank you everyone for your comments. My admiration for Mr Tata continues to grow.

    on Feb 6, 2015
  • Ramendra Singh

    good, deserve to be sung a loud. humility not meant for seeking vote or veto. or findling place in bigs

    on Feb 5, 2015
  • C p Chandra das

    An interesting article. I have read the book BUSINESS IS PEOPLE written by a Tata executive. I had read the book several times several years back. I had lost my personal copy and I went to the book stalls in India and I was told it is not available. This book in large numbers was even exported to other countries for it's emotional content. I request the author to make arrangements to reprint this particular book, to benefit all In the management field. C P CHANDRA DAS, now from Memphis.

    on Jun 29, 2014
  • laxman more

    Great leader....

    on Jun 26, 2014
  • Kunal Khajuria

    These events are of no surprise considering the man he is. A true leader in ever sense of the word. I am a pilot with Jet. During unemployed days as one of many CPL holders in the country I was lucky to get a job with the IHC as a front office staff on the executive floor of the Taj Palace hotel. Mr Tata would always stay withthe flagship delhi hotel, the Taj Mahal. I was working a night shift alone on the executive floor called the Taj Club floor and winding up after the mad rush of the evening. The lift doors open and lo behold Mr Tata himself without the customary entourage that accompany most if not all other captains of industry. Imagine my shock as I sprang to attention in front of the overall boss of IHC. That shock quadrupled when he extended his hand and said "Ratan Tata, checking in. Would you have a room for me". I am pretty sure I must've looked very foolish dressed snappily yet having my jaw sitting on the floor. I suppose the Duty Manager forgot to pass on the information to me or was tied up with guests down stairs but that didn't bother Mr Tata one bit. He was amused at my bewilderment and scattered process and stood there patiently while I grabbed the keys to the presidential suite. He wished me a good night night and said he was sorry to arrive unannounced as the Mahal was fully booked. You are right. His humility is beyond exceptional. That is what motivates people to walk the walk. It certainly motivated me. This country could do with him as a leader

    on May 14, 2014
    • Hemant

      I envy you Kunal... you experienced something which would stay lifetime with you...

      on Jan 15, 2015
  • pratik

    The god of corporate ... Ratan N Tata. Sir a salute for you.

    on Dec 20, 2013
  • Dr.A.Jagadeesh

    Ratan Tataji - Titan Among Titans. A great Humanist and an Industrialist par excellence,a visionary and above all a person with unusual tolerance. I am an ardent supporter of you Ratan Tataji. Long live Ratan Tataji. Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    on Oct 30, 2013
  • Prof. Ayyappan Iyer

    Wonderful Human Being. it reminds me of King Mahabali... God Bless RNT...

    on Oct 13, 2013
  • Noufal

    This is the great and heart touch.

    on Sep 21, 2013
  • Anirudha Dutta

    Thank you everyone for your comments. Obviously I am also an admirer of JRD and RNT.

    on Aug 31, 2013
  • sudhir vartak


    on Aug 30, 2013
  • Suresh

    True leader, i respect him most, Mukesh and Anil has to seek some ethics from him.

    on Aug 24, 2013
  • B.Nagarajan

    Really Great Leader......!!!! Ratan Tata.. "R" for Role model of Youths.. Very Soon I'll be a Good Manager in Tata Family...

    on Aug 22, 2013
  • Vaishali V Kotasthane

    just remarkable! we all should learn a lot from this.

    on Aug 13, 2013
  • Vaishali V Kotasthane

    just remarkable! we need to learn a lot from this.

    on Aug 13, 2013
  • Sandeep

    Who says saints are no more born on this planet whenever i read an article on him i feel he is normal human being with eternal powers. whenever i feel proud being indian it is he who has always made me cherish before international community. Hats of to you Sir, Hope Mr Cyrus Mistry keeps the Enigma which he has.

    on Jul 8, 2013
  • shalini

    huge respect for Mr Ratan Tata - He is a rare gem in form of a business leader from India....

    on Jul 1, 2013
  • Yogendra Singh

    He is a great man. None other is like him.

    on May 23, 2013
  • Gulzar

    Salute to Him

    on May 23, 2013
  • R.Rosalin

    I salute RNT

    on May 11, 2013
  • Judith Priya

    We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Ratan Tata when he visited our TCS Siruseri office in Chennai , His humbility and Surreal Charism never failed to impress us, He used every single opportunity to interact with us employees and i was on cloud 9 when he shook hands with me casually while walking in our floor. We surely miss him as our MD and Chairman

    on Apr 22, 2013

    what an extraordinary man. I would put him on the pedestal with Mr. Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa. I base my life on these humble, high achievers. Three cheers to them and thank you for sharing Sir Ratan Tata, with the likes of normal folk.

    on Apr 15, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Thank you, Mrs Hockham, for your kind comments.

      on Apr 16, 2013
  • Claude Maredza

    My only gripe with these men of money and influence is that they seem not to want to promote aspiring entrepreneurs who, like them, would also add a little to make this world a better place. I for example asked Mr Ratan Tata to invest into a project in tourism which I am promoting here in Zimbabwe. The project requires an investment of US$130 million and it can instantly change the lives of 50 000 very poor people directly over and above the upstream and down stream. It has a projected rate of return of 120% per annum, yes, 120% per annum. i must say that as much as i respect Mr Tata, i was really taken aback that after trying high and low to speak with him about the project, i was put on the run around. What had prompted me to try and seek his audience initially was this very reported humility, empathy and humane approach to other human beings. Unfortunately I had a different experience but all the same, listening to the man Ratan Tata speak, and just looking at his entire disposition, he does look like he is a man full of empathy and has a clearly discernible humane disposition about him. So I will keep on trying until i get this man's ear even in his retirement.

    on Apr 15, 2013
  • nagasrinivas

    @Vishal: really u r a lucky guy to see him. but be urself if Ratan Tata sir would have imagined to be some1 else there would b no RT here. Even he would not like some1 to be him. he suits himself not u r me

    on Apr 2, 2013
  • Vishal

    I am among those lucky ones who has seen Ratan Tata "face - to - face" and I proudly tell this to every one. As a kid I never knew what I want to be when I grow up. But now as an youth, I have the answer - I WANT TO BE RATAN TATA some day.

    on Mar 27, 2013
  • akshay shanbhag

    Dear Mr. Dutta, thanks for sharing your experiences with Mr. Tata. I am a big fan of him too. Also, I really appreciate the work culture he has imbibed within Tata group. However, I would say the instances you have quoted in this article are just very normal in western countries. When I even was just a summer intern with some of the big western companies, CEOs made it a point to meet the interns and interacted just like a normal person. It was quite common to see the CEO walk in to an executive/employee's office to have a chat with them. So, I feel that Mr. Tata has taken a leaf out of the informal western management style to adopt it to his company. Of course, I am sure there arent many Indian companies that do it and I admire Mr. Tata for all that he has done to create professionalism within Tata group and his contributions to our country.

    on Mar 20, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Dear Akshay, You are probably right in saying that he has picked up some of his management traits from his student days in US. But he is a thorough gentleman, unlike many of his peer group or so I think. The incidents I have described are not earth shattering, but offer a peak into his personality.

      on Mar 22, 2013
  • vinod arun ware

    I really want to say thanks to Mr. Anirudha Datta to say such beautiful stories and i always like to read more about Sir. Ratan Tata.

    on Mar 16, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Thank you, Vinod

      on Mar 17, 2013
  • kiran patra

    A great man and phillospher who always a inspiration for all..........

    on Mar 4, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Indeed, Kiran

      on Mar 17, 2013
  • Thomas Moon

    I enjoy reports from India. They give me an occasional reminder of my wonderful two years living and working in India on a telecommunications project as a United Nations (International Telecommunications Union) consultant. Keep up the great work. Tell Mr. Tata that I have enjoyed his acquisitions outside of India. It (such successes) help me to convince my colleagues here in the U.S. of the greatness of the Indian people. Thomas Moon

    on Feb 28, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Thank you, Thomas

      on Mar 17, 2013
  • john mathew

    breaking the social barrier is prosperity ! i may not say it is profit but rather love & hapiness to human minds

    on Feb 23, 2013

    It is totally unbelievable to understand of an Emperor of TATA Group who is the most humane gentleman. I am a Dean of a Business School in Bangalore and now I am 68. I was a visiting lecturer to a Hotel Management Institute in Mangalore in 1970s. The principal was a former employee of Hotel Taj in his early 25s. He was telling me that Mr. Ratan Tata used to come to the Hotel without aids. He simply comes and takes a table, orders, sign the bill and goes without talking to anyone. Even the officers were not coming and talking to him with high regards for his simplicity and human behaviour

    on Jan 14, 2013
  • Ashu

    These are ridiculous examples. I don't doubt the humility of RNT; but especially in your first two examples- the credit should go to the executives in question rather than RNT. In the business world, even in India, you get treated, the way you allow others to treat you. If the execs were spineless, they would hv rushed up in a Ji hazoor manner, but they don't and didn't not just because of RNT, but because they hv self respect as well. I hv worked in Indian promoter companies and seen multiple instances of both behaviors

    on Jan 11, 2013
    • UN

      Ashu, your conclusions draw upon your experiences with other promoter companies and may be valid. However, this does take away from the author's specific point in any way whatsoever. Knowing what I do of the Tata Group (and I do know a lot having spent nearly 4 years there), I can vouch that the said executives responded in the way they did only because it was RNT at the other end. This is in contrast to the prevalent culture of the Group where hierarchy is supreme. Knowing fully well that RNT would not resent it was what allowed them this liberty. Most other bosses in the Group would not have been as charitable.

      on Jan 19, 2013
    • Indian

      Yes, I agree with Anirudha, Ashu please provide any other instances if this has happened

      on Jan 15, 2013
    • Anirudha dutta

      Ashu, Yes, there are times when the exeutive's personality determines how he or she is treated. I am happy to note you have found similar humility in other Indian promoters. Do share your examples and anecdotes.

      on Jan 13, 2013
  • Prof. Rama Bharatha Varma

    A very exciting and revealing write up by Mr. Dutta. I admire RNT as a great man who is a role model for all young people and other industrialists and I publish a poem I wrote about him recently as a tribute to him RATAN TATA.... a TRIBUTE The man who took failure as feedback Saw light at every turn or U turn in LIFE An affectionate global professional With a smile for everyone ,very humane Took TATA BRICK and made into into TATA GOLD The magic touch that touched every heart And spread the TATA net far and wide ,globally To catch huge fishes like CORUS ,TETLEY and JAUGAUR Devouring giants of the world , with much ease ! A towering person who did everything right In the right spirit to keep up the true spirit of TATAS INDIANS are proud of you , and respect you much Our salutes to you and let GOD bless YOU and TATA group YOU are always there for the GROUP as its guiding light Composed online by PROFVARMA —

    on Jan 11, 2013
    • Anirudha dutta

      Thank you, Prof Varma.

      on Jan 13, 2013
  • shaji

    His humblenss is without question. Many a times I have personally seen Ratan Tata, arriving in his car in the morning and at the Back door of Bombay House and personally carrying his files in his hand. No peon to carry his files etc.

    on Jan 11, 2013
    • Anirudha dutta

      Thanks, Shaji. I have heard anecdotes like yours from several employees of the Tata group.

      on Jan 13, 2013
  • Rajesh Nanalal Chouhan

    indeed he is noble son of India and a wonderful person.though i am ordinary person i always sent him emails on tatas every achievement and all emails are replied by ratanjis personal assistant or chairmans office staff.many emails ratanji personaly replied.tata house is always kind to me many times i visited bombay house but i never felt that i am ordinary person........if ratanji is sea i am just a droap of water in deep sea.only my dream to see ratanjis glimps remain unfullfiled yet. wellwisher,admirer and devotee of Tatas. an very ordinary person.

    on Jan 9, 2013
    • Anirudha dutta

      Rajesh, Hopefully your dreams will be fulfilled. Best wishes.

      on Jan 10, 2013
  • sameer deshmukh

    I completely agree with you. i also accidently encountered Mr. Tata couple of times at the Taj. His demeanour is just amazing. So unlike other promoters or CEO's. Also he doesnt travel with an entourage.....actually that makes him what he is and thats why he is held in such a high esteem anirudha

    on Jan 9, 2013
    • Anirudha dutta

      Thanks, Sameer, for your comment and anecdote. It is indeed amazing, as you said, especially given the times we live in.

      on Jan 9, 2013
  • Rob Morrison

    You might want to update your bio here?

    on Jan 8, 2013
  • Vishy Iyer

    Thanks Aniruddh! Very thoughtful of you to have brought out some simple but very profound facts. Wish we had more such leaders in this country! Very well written as well Vish

    on Jan 8, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Vishy, Thanks for your feedback..

      on Jan 8, 2013
  • Aditya

    I had a similar experience once at Bombay House. Was waiting at the reception to collect the visitor pass when suddenly there was a buzz in the air and I noticed a certain calm in the hall way. The next thing I see is Mr. Tata walking in with a smile and greeting people as he walked in. As he approached the elevator, there was a young boy who seemed to be a delivery boy from another company waiting for the elevator as well. Noticing Mr. Tata, the boy moved aside to allow him to get in. Mr. Tata however said "after you" and humbly followed the shocked little boy into the elevator!

    on Jan 8, 2013
    • Anirudha dutta

      Thanks, Aditya. Bombay House veterans are full of such stories about JRD as well. RNT was a worthy successor in more ways than one. And while scripting the growth and globalisation of the group, he kept the nice, gentle and humanitarian values intact... Indeed a rare personality among corporate chieftains.

      on Jan 8, 2013
  • SJ

    No disrespect to the man, but the Tata sumo story is a known hoax. Lets look up to his ideals and try and always get our facts right.

    on Jan 8, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Thank you, SJ, for correcting. Ms Sarika Chokshi from the Tata group has also clarified the same. Thanks to anonymous emails and blogs, lot of information like this is assumed as the truth and many a time we are lazy not to try and verify the same.

      on Jan 8, 2013
  • SM

    Hi Anirudha, Pretty Old one . . .Dont know how far this forwarded email stands true . . But Considering the name associated to it I would surely believe and so would you and many others. Regards, S Forwarded email . . Few months after 26/11, Taj group of Hotels owned by TATAs launched their biggest tender ever for remodelling all their Hotels in India and abroad. Some of the companies who applied for that tender were Pakistanis. To make their bid stronger, two big industrialists from Pakistan visited Bombay House (Head office of Tata Group) in Mumbai without an appointment to meet up with Ratan Tata since he was not giving them any prior appointment. They were made to sit at the reception of Bombay house and after few hours message was conveyed to them that Ratan Tata is busy and can not meet anyone without an appointment. Frustrated, these two Pakistani industrialists went to Delhi and through their High Commission met up with than Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. Sharma immediately called up Ratan Tata requesting him to meet up with the two Pakistani Industrialists and consider their tender "enthusiastically". Ratan Tata could be shameful, I am not" and put down the phone. Few months later when Pakistani government placed an order of Tata Sumo's to be imported into Pakistan, Ratan Tata refused to ship a single vehicle to that country. This is the respect and love for Motherland that Ratan Tata has, something that our current Politicians do not have but expect they should learn from Ratan Tata. You got to stand for something in your life, else you will fall for everything. Awake Country men, Nation is above everything else.

    on Jan 8, 2013
    • jose kottanani

      This has to be a hoax; On one hand we say Mr Ratan Tata is a man of great humility and we come out with such bull crap stories saying that he kept the two Pakistani industrialist waiting for many hours before telling them that he is busy and cannot meet them. Man, who ever made up this story, surely does not know Mr Tata. even if such a case happened, I doubt he would have made them waiting at the reception for many hours. but anyway, this is a hoax story...

      on Nov 28, 2014
    • Sarika K. Chokshi

      Dear Sir,

      We refer to your post on Mr Ratan N. Tata's reported interaction with Mr Anand Sharma. No such interaction ever took place. Neither did any companies from Pakistan bid for refurbishment of the Taj Group of hotels. Neither has Tata Motors ever received any order for Tata Sumos from Pakistan.

      Kind regards,

      Sarika K. Chokshi

      General Manager

      Tata Sons

      on Jan 8, 2013
      • Anirudha Dutta

        Dear Ms. Choksi, Many thanks for your clarification.

        on Jan 8, 2013
    • Anirudha dutta

      Thanks, SM. I had heard or may be read about the Sumo story. I did not know about this rebuilding contract. But more importantly is how Indian Hotels set up a Trust for the victims of the 26/11 terror attack and has systematically gone about giving relief and support to all victims irrespective of where they were hurt by the terrorists. And the group has maintained its commitment to ethics and integrity when such values increasingly seem anachronistic.

      on Jan 8, 2013
      • Meet

        This story is a hoax

        on Sep 14, 2013
      • Sunil L. Samtani

        Marvellous and I have no words to add. My respecct for this Gentleman has only increased and I take it as a lesson.

        on Jan 14, 2013
  • KGMohan

    Anirudha - thanks for sharing your experiences of Ratan Tata with us - as certain facets of the leading industrialist are rarely known to the general public - especially his "human side". There are many such anecdotes about Azim Premji, that I have heard and humbling interactions - have personally experienced. Leaders like them have a sobering impact on our nation which is on the boil now. They re-instill faith in qualities like "humaneness and integrity" in the corporate world. Both Ratan Tata and Azim Premji speak their mind out on the political establishment in the country fearlessly and this stems from the fact that both of them created organizations based on the foundation of business ethics coupled with impeccable personal integrity.

    on Jan 8, 2013
    • Anirudha dutta

      Thanks, KG, for your comment. Indeed the values that people like RNT and Azim Premji represent need to be celebrated more as the alternate narrative, especially when basic value systems seem to be disappearing fast and at times you despair at what is happening around us.

      on Jan 8, 2013
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