Education

Young start-ups in e-comm space will change face of Indian merchandising, marketing: Ratan Tata

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on January 24, 2018
Ratan Tata, Chairman. TATA Trusts and Bala V Balachandran, Founder, Dean and Chairman, Great Lakes Institute of Management, at the 11th convocation of Great Lakes Institute of Management, in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Ratan Tata, Chairman. TATA Trusts and Bala V Balachandran, Founder, Dean and Chairman, Great Lakes Institute of Management, at the 11th convocation of Great Lakes Institute of Management, in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh   -  Business Line

Ratan Tata, Chairman. TATA Trusts putting on a medal to a graduating student at the 11th convocation of Great Lakes Institute of Management, in the presence of Bala V Balachandran, Founder, Dean and Chairman, Great Lakes Institute of Management, in Chennai on Wednesday ( July 15, 2015)Photo : Bijoy GhoshTo go with R. Balaji's report   -  Business Line

Former Chairman of the Tata group and Chairman, Tata Trusts, Ratan Tata believes the young start-ups in the e.comm space, such as those that he has been investing in, will change the face of Indian merchandising and marketing. “If I look at the landscape I see in the future of young start-ups what I saw in the US in the ’70s and ’80s, a disruptive environment and an ability of these start-ups to think out of the box. They changed the appearance of the US from smoke stack companies to innovative companies such as Apple and FB which we see around us today,” said Tata, taking a question from students of the Great Lakes Institute of Management at its 11th Convocation in Chennai.

Tata, the chief guest, chose to take questions from the students rather than deliver a formal address. “When I was in the Tata group, I was deathly afraid of personal investments because one might say it’s a conflict of interest. And, it is difficult within the Tata group, given its diversity. Now for the last three years, I have been a free person so in a small token way I am investing. I have spread myself across 10 companies hoping some companies may succeed,” he told the graduating batch of students and faculty of the institute. Tata has invested in companies such as Urban Ladder, Kaaryah, CarDekho, Bluestone and SnapDeal, among others.

Responding to another question on the key learnings from the launch of the Tata Nano, Tata said that the Nano was designed by a group which had an average age of 26. “It was an exhilarating experience to produce a car which could be purchased for a lakh of rupees. The launch of the vehicle was a success far beyond expectations,” he said.

Unfortunately, in West Bengal, where its plant was first located, the state had an aggressive head of government (who opposed the project). “Somebody talked of the Bengal tiger, but it was a Bengal Tigress! We lost a year in moving a plant and re-establishing it in another part of the country. During that year, we lost a lot of excitement over the new product, gave our competitors opportunities to create myths and stories around the product. Our mistake was also branding it as the cheapest car, rather than the most affordable car for the people and that was to have a negative impact on the market. People didn’t want to be seen in the cheapest car and that has been our greatest deficiency to disseminate what the car was meant to be, what it was meant to perform,” he explained.

Addressing the graduating batch, Tata exhorted them not to forget that they may have finished their curriculum in B-school, but their real learning starts now. “The tools have been given to you, and so has the experience and exposure, but what you make in life is what you do after you graduate. There will be thousands of occasions you have to make difficult decisions and you need to at all times ask yourself if you are doing the right thing, however difficult or unpopular they may be,” he said.

Tata told the students to realise that they are among the more fortunate people and there are millions who are less fortunate. “And, don’t ever forget that, because you need to look at your life as one where you can make a difference.”

“I had to fill the shoes of a big person (JRD Tata); I couldn’t possibly fill them appropriately so I decided to be myself. So you too have the education, the tools, be yourself but driven by the desire to make a difference, be ethical and fair and you will make a difference. To be popular and a conformist will never make you do the kinds of things which is happening around us,” he exhorted the students.

The former Chairman of the Tata group said that there are many decisions one has to take in life that may be wrong or impossible to execute but one needs to do what one believes is right: a bad decision you need to own up and a decision you believe is right you have to fight for it. “When you rise to a position of seniority you will find difficult decisions are a lonely activity; difficult decisions are taken when you are alone. Most people around you will seem to disagree with you, but do what you believe is right, fair and is going to make a difference and let there be a driving force that says every decision you take has to stand the test of public scrutiny and if it does, stand with it and execute it,” he elaborated.

Around 611 students graduated across five different full-time and executive programmes this year from Great Lakes. Six best outgoing students and four academic toppers were awarded gold medals. Beside academic toppers, medals and certificates were awarded to nearly 70 graduands in the the categories of Dean’s Merit List, domain toppers, best empirical study and committee contributors.

Welcoming the gathering, Prof Bala V Balachandran, Founder, Dean & Chairman, Great Lakes, said the confluence of diverse thoughts and ideas at the institute has helped the institute grow and reach greater heights. He told the graduating batch to contribute to the world out there the knowledge they acquired at Great Lakes.

Published on July 15, 2015

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