Ratan Tata, the chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, said he was extremely excited about the start-up industry and it has been a good learning experience for him so far.
He was speaking at an event held in the city to announce the partnership between the University of California and Ratan Tata’s investment company RNT Associates.
Tata, sharing his experiences when he started his career with the Tata Group said his initial years with the group were both enriching as well as physically tough.
Tata who was a practising architect in Los Angeles before he came down to India to work for the Tata Group, said his first job was with Tata Steel where he had to work on the shop floor amidst big furnaces.
He also spoke about how lonely it gets at the top. During his tenure as the chairman, he had to make some tough calls and sometimes make decisions which went against some colleagues. “It is quite a lonely job and on occasions you have to take decisions all by yourself.”
When he became the chairman of the group after taking over from the iconic JRD Tata who retired at the ripe old age of 90, there were a string of colleagues who themselves were in their 80s. “Some of them had to be helped out to get out of their cars during their visits to Bombay House (headquarters of the Tata Group). I still remember that once at a board meeting, the door to the board room swung open to let in a director who was helped along by two people who sat him down. He would fall asleep often and had to be woken up whenever a resolution had to be passed by the board,” he said.
So, he decided to announce a retirement scheme which not only got rid of a whole lot of people but also him.
He said while investing in start-ups, he has been learning a lot about the new industry. “I see a lot of vigour, energy and a very different kind of business from the brick & mortar we are used to,” he added. Tata, 78, said the challenges one faces while investing in the start-ups is that while the risk profile is higher, the difficulties involved with start-ups are much lesser in magnitude than investing in major companies with hundreds of crores tied up in new projects. He pointed out that the quality of the founders and passion they bring and the concepts are much more relevant than in a large company.
He said all the investments he has made so far in about 25 start-ups are private ones. “I think it would be inappropriate for us to evaluate the investments made by me personally… it is like saying what you have paid for a car or for an apartment. It is a very personal thing and we are trying to learn about a new industry which you are excited about.”