Podcast | The business of family — The Tatas

Apr 24, 2018, 12:23 PM

"We do not claim to be more unselfish, more generous or more philanthropic than other people. But we think we started on sound and straightforward business principles, considering the interests of the shareholders our own, and the health and welfare of the employees the sure foundation of our prosperity. " 

The words were uttered memorably by Jamsetji Tata, the man who broke new ground for Indian entrepreneurship much before the term was coined. Some time back we brought to you a podcast about how the idea of the great big Indian business family continues to endure at a time of brash, young but uproariously successful ideas. And no business exemplifies this resilience better than Tata Sons.

As we mentioned in the last podcast, entrenched family businesses are more politically savvy than new players and understand how to adapt to India's ever evolving social and entrepreneurial landscape.

Even as two of Tata's flagship companies, Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Steel Europe, navigate international negotiations currently, the headlines today state that Tata Sons has appointed former foreign secretary S Jaishankar as president, global corporate affairs. This is clearly a well-thought out move and bodes well for the company. He will be overseeing Tata group’s global corporate affairs and international strategy development.

In an official statement, Jaishankar said that he looks forward to working with an iconic institution known for its value-based leadership.

His statement conveying in not so many words that a pioneering business enterprise evokes more than just numbers.

So let us today, talk of a success story that is not just about products but legacies. A legacy which now includes TCS, the freshly minted $100 billion company. It is also time for us to acknowledge on this podcast the irrefutable fact that even those of us who have never worked for a Tata company have been touched in some way by its services, products and messaging.

Tata Sons, the family that pioneered CSR

Many of us still remember the vintage ads about their steel legacy, where the Tatas used this key phrase, "We also make steel."

It was in 1988, that the Tatas first ran an ad on Doordarshan, not about a product but nation building. It showed us the impact conscientious corporate policies have on employees and even consumers. That ad captured in a few seconds the idealism of the founding fathers of Tata Sons. 1988 was also the year, Tata Steel became the only integrated steel company in the world outside Japan to win the Deming Application Prize for excellence in Total Quality Management.

 The ad with the punch line, "We also make steel" also summed up what we would come to understand in the years to come as CSR (or corporate social responsibility).The Tatas in a way pioneered the idea of philanthropy being intrinsic to corporate philosophy.

And so it turns out that the term family in the case of Tatas has always had a broader meaning.

And as was evident in the famous ad, The Tatas did not just build a steel plant. They built a city for their employees where there are more amenities than some of the biggest metro cities in India. The city has multiple academies for varied sport disciplines, golf courses, a hospital, leafy avenues, stadiums, a local power utility and a lot more.

Jamshedpur or Tata Nagar was built in 1907 and today the Tatas' contribution to its infrastructure even includes a ₹100 crore, 11-km highway. This level of investment in human capital is what lasting legacies are built of. And that is why, too many Tata employees, being part of the Tata family means that often succeeding generations also end up working for the company. And yes, Tata Steel hasn’t seen a day of strike since 1928.

CSR with constant diversification and global dominance

And we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what the Tata family stands for.

 Even as first generation entrepreneurs in India challenge entrenched business house...