Tata, the gentle giant
His shyness was often misconstrued as arrogance. Back in August 1998, the word going around in Mumbai circles was that Ratan Tata was not exactly comfortable with the media and preferred to keep it at arm’s length. People said this was due to some instances of inaccurate reporting, which had caused the Tata Group head considerable embarrassment.
At an event attended by industry top guns, I recall approaching him gingerly as he was leaving the venue and asking if he was open to a meeting.
He paused and then politely asked me to call his office the next day, which I did, only to be told he was not around. The usual name-and-number routine followed, and I got back to the grind at work, forgetting the whole thing.
To my complete surprise, Tata himself called later in the evening and said he was ready for an informal, off-the-record chat the following week at his corporate headquarters, Bombay House. I must confess that I broke into a near-jig; after all, it was not too often you got a call from Ratan Tata! The meeting was meant to break ice, and what followed was a memorable interaction on his plans for the car segment.
Just some months earlier, he had unveiled the Indica to a packed gathering at the Delhi Auto Expo. It was a remarkable effort from a traditional manufacturer of trucks to enter this exciting and glamorous segment. It was a revelation to discover Tata’s passion for cars and how keen he was to take his company to the next level.