Tata Group Says 'Ta Ta' To Boss

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The brains behind one of the world's most successful companies has handed over the reins of his vast business empire.

The head of India's Tata Group, Ratan Tata, used his 75th birthday to fulfil his retirement as chairman after steering the group for 21 years and transforming it into a streamlined conglomerate of more than 100 companies which include Jaguar Land Rover and Tetley Tea.

He passed the baton to 44-year old Cyrus Mistry, who brushed his way past reporters as he arrived to take the helm at Tata's headquarters in Mumbai, in a move that typically lacked any fanfare or signal of change for the company.

Mr Tata, a bachelor with no children, generated headlines as the driving force behind the creation of the Nano, billed as the world's cheapest "people's" car as well as for the 2008 purchase of prestige British car brands Jaguar and Land Rover.

From luxury cars to steel, Tata is India's largest group with total combined sales of $100bn (£60bn) in 2011-12, nearly 60% of which came from business outside India, mainly the United States and Britain.

During Ratan Tata's time at the helm, the organisation went on a global purchasing spree, acquiring major names ranging from Tetley Tea to the Anglo-Dutch steel firm Corus in 2007 for $13.7bn.

In addition, Tata Motors is India's top vehicle maker while Tata Consultancy Services is its largest software outsourcer.

The group's progress over the past two decades has coincided with the rapid economic development of India, which observers say Mr Tata played a major role in.

An editorial in the Hindustan Times read: "The Tata group has been the spearhead of India's integration with the world economy.

"The Tatas are ahead of the pack in aligning corporate governance with international practices and this serves as a springboard for a new generation of the the global Indian manager."

Pradip Shah, chairman of IndAsia Fund Advisors, said: "Tata led the group with vision, drive, tenacity and skill." He added that Mr Mistry's challenge would be "inheriting people and building teams".

Tata Steel is the world's seventh-largest steel producer but is now having problems with downbeat business conditions in Europe. The group's telecom, power, hotel and finance arms also face difficulties.

Mr Mistry, who was chosen as Mr Tata's successor in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) last year, is the the son of Irish citizen Pallonji Mistry, whose construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji is the biggest shareholder of Tata Sons.

He successfully grew his family's construction business turnover seven-fold to almost $1.5bn since he became managing director in 1994.

Mr Tata, now "chairman emeritus" with the group, plans to remain head of the charitable trusts that own two-thirds of main holding company Tata Sons.