TATA Group: A Conglomerate With More Than 100 Years of History
“Businesses need to go beyond the interest of their companies to the communities they serve.” With these words, Ratan Tata pointed out the highest value in building successful and lasting businesses.
Conglomerates and holdings are something we frequently see on the global market. They can unite the efforts of thousands of people to build a brighter and better future. Their innovative business practices, financial liquidity, and employment opportunities help communities thrive and prosper. However, these companies are rare diamonds.
This is even more true for conglomerates and holdings founded in countries like India. They can make a real change and empower each individual and whole communities. One such example is the Tata Group, a conglomerate founded by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata. This company provides various products and services, from vehicles and airplanes to tourism, travel, and financial services.
Curious to learn how Jamsetji managed to thrive in the most unprecedented of times?
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The 19th Century: A Century of Opportunities
Jamsetji was born in 1893 in Navsari, British India. He was the first in his family to take the bold step toward starting his own business.
At the age of 14, Jamsetji enrolled in Elphinstone College in Bombay and graduated in 1858. He was well-versed in arithmetics and had already grasped Western science.
Jamsetji’s father was his sole employer until he turned 29. But the moment had come–Jamsetji was ready to beat the many stereotypes people had of Indian society.
In 1968, he founded a trading company with a capital of $257 and started by converting an oil mill into a cotton mill. Eventually, Jamsetji sold it and opened the Empress Mill in 1877. In 1903, he became a supporter of the Swadeshi Movement, a movement promoting the manufacturing of domestic goods and thus strengthening the Indian economy.
“Adventurous” was the best epithet to describe Jamsetji. He traveled to China to learn about opium trading practices. He also traveled to England to experiment with cotton cultivation procedures and become an acknowledged cotton trader.
During his lifetime, Jamsetji was the first to substitute the throstle with a ring spin needle in his soft cotton mills.
Jamsetji was also very keen on helping his community. During the last years of his life, he built schools and hospitals and made a total donation of $102 billion to Indian society.
His story was a story of how tumultuous times can bring up successful men with a vision and a zeal to make a real change!
The Legacy of Jamsetji Tata’s Successors
After Jamsetji died in 1904, his sons took the Tata company into their own hands. The first to succeed was Sir Dorajbi Tata. His dedication and hard work made way for the Tata Iron and Steel company (today known as Tata Steel). In 1907, the company opened its first overseas offices in London, UK.
His father, Jamsetji, had a dream of making the first hydro plant in India. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see his dream come true. However, in 1910, Sir Dorabji, following his father’s footsteps, constructed the first hydro plant in India.
This is how the Tata Hydroelectric Power Supply Company was born. Today, we know it by the name Tata Power Company Limited.
In 1917, Sir Dorabji made its debut in consumer goods and launched the soup brands Hamam and Moti. He sadly passed away in 1932, and Nowroji Sakvatvala was granted the Chairmanship of the Tata Group. Nowroji passed away in 1938, and Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, the son of Sir Dorabji, became the new Tata Group Chairman.
In 1939, the group founded Tata Chemicals, which started operating in the coastal town of Mithapur. Things were looking bright for the company, and as soon as it became an industry giant, it decided to scale even further. So, in 1945, the Tata Group established Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company, which was rebranded as Tata Motors in 2003.
In 1952, the company launched its first set of cosmetic products. They became an instant hit–people were collecting them like Pokemon cards!
In 1962, the group established Tata Exports. This was another company that specialized in the manufacturing and trading of leather products. Today, we know it as Tata International, which operates in more than 40 countries worldwide.
Finishing Touches of the Tata Group
In 1991, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy stepped down from his position as Chairman. The most capable, vision-driven and dedicated candidate was Ratan Tata. He had an eye for the evolving market and was passionate to expand Tata Group’s activities.
In 1992, the company launched women’s watch collections, Titan Raga and Fastrack, in 1998. These watches and the Tanishq jewelry products gained momentum and became an absolute hit among Indian youths.
In 1998, Ratan drew another ingenious move by launching the first indigenous Indian vehicle, the Tata Indica. Shortly afterwards, the Tata Group manufactured the first Indian SUV, Tata Safari.
Nevertheless, 2003 was the year when the Tata Group marked its biggest success in software technologies and products. It was also the year when Tata Consultancy Services made a total revenue of more than $1 billion.
With all this said, we can easily assume that Jamsetji’s philanthropic dreams had come to an end. But that’s far from the truth! In 2008, the Tata Group unveiled its first ‘peoples car,’ Tata Nano. This investment made transportation affordable to thousands, even millions, across the subcontinent.
The year 2018 marked another turning point in the group’s history. Ratan signed a joint venture contract with ThyssenKrupp and became one of the torch-bearers of the European steel market.
Tata Group Today
Today, the Tata Group is headquartered in Mumbai, India. It is a conglomerate comprising 30 companies employing more than 935.000 people and operating in 100 countries worldwide.
Some of the more significant Tata Group affiliates include Air India, Tata Communications, Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, and Tata Power.
Its products range from the automotive industry and airlines to finance, e-commerce, and real estate. Nonetheless, with competitors like Volvo, Mahindra & Mahindra, Berkshire Hathaway, and Hyundai, the Tata Group has to be flexible, innovative, and resilient to changes.
Tata Group Funding
From the first days of its operations, the company was funded by the selling and trading of its products and services. Jamsetji started his first enterprise with an investment of only a couple hundred dollars. He financed the Tata company with cotton manufacturing and trading.
However, today the Tata Group is a company that offers its shares publicly. The leading holding group is Tata Sons participating with 66% in the total equities. Moreover, the revenues Tata Group realized in 2021-2022 reached $128 billion or 9.6 trillion in Indian rupees.
The Tata Group also launched IPOs. For example, the Tata Consultancy Services IPO raised nearly $1.2 billion in 2004.
The company also approaches global investors, motivating them to participate in fundraising rounds. The latest announcements are that Tata Sons plan to raise $4 billion for Air India and $2.5 for Tata Digital.
Where is the Future of the Tata Group
In the coming years, the group will focus on four main areas: health, supply chain resilience, technology, and renewable energy. The Tata Group also plans to expand its IPO activities and publicly offer the shares of some of its subsidiaries.
The Group-wide Innovation Forum consists of the Tata Chemical Innovation Centre, TCS Innovation Labs, and the Tata Motors European Technical Center. The group made it clear that it will continue with its innovation efforts, trying to fortify its role as a leader in entrepreneurship.
Looking at their precisely outlined goals, we can conclude one thing–the Tata Group is here to stay!