Business Icons of Independent India


Ratan Tata

Ratan Naval Tata was born on December 28, 1937, in Surat. He is the present Chairman of the Tata Group, India`s largest conglomerate founded by Jamshedji Tata and consolidated and expanded by later generations of his family.

Tata was born into the wealthy and famous Tata family of Mumbai. He was born to Soonoo and Naval Hormusji Tata. Ratan is the great grandson of Tata group founder Jamshedji Tata. Ratan`s childhood was troubled, his parents separating in the mid-1940s, when he was about seven and his younger brother Jimmy was five. He was schooled at the Campion School, Mumbai and graduated from Cornell University in 1962 with a degree in Architecture and Structural Engineering.

Ratan Tata holds a B.Sc. (Architecture) degree with structural engineering from Cornell University, USA and has completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, USA. He joined the Tata Group in December 1962, after turning down a job with IBM on the advice of JRD Tata. He was first sent to Jamshedpur to work at Tata Steel. Ratan Tata, a shy man, rarely features in the society glossies, has lived for years in a book-crammed, dog-filled bachelor flat in Mumbai`s Colaba district.

Ratan Tata has his own capital in Tata Sons., the holding company of the group. Though his share is just about 1%, his personal holding is valued at US$ 1 Billion. If all the value of this is added his Net Worth is estimated at around US$ 50 Billion, making Ratan N. Tata one of the richest people in the world.

JRD Tata with his successor Ratan Tata in 1971, Ratan was appointed the Director-in-Charge of the National Radio & Electronics Company Limited (Nelco), a company that was in dire financial difficulty. Ratan suggested that the company invest in developing high-technology products, rather than in consumer electronics.

In 1991, he took over as group chairman from J.R.D. Tata, pushing out the old guard and ushering in younger managers. Since then, he has been instrumental in reshaping the fortunes of the Tata Group, which today has the largest market capitalization of any business house on the Indian Stock Market.

On March 26, 2008, Tata Motors, under Ratan Tata, bought Jaguar & Land Rover from Ford Motor Company. The two iconic British brands, Jaguar and Land Rover, were acquired for $2.3 billion.

Ratan Tata`s dream was to manufacture a car costing Rs 100,000. He realized his dream by launching Nano in New Delhi Auto Expo on January 10, 2008.

Dhirubhai Ambani

Dhirubhai Hirachand Ambani¬†¬†also known as¬†Dhirubhai, (28 December 1932 ‚Äď 6 July 2002) was an Indian¬†business magnate¬†and entrepreneur who founded¬†Reliance Industries, a petrochemicals, communications, power, and textiles¬†conglomerate¬†and the only privately owned Indian company in the¬†Fortune 500. Ambani took his company public in 1984. Dhirubhai has been one among the select Forbes billionaires and has also figured in the Sunday Times list of top 50 businessmen in Asia.His life has often been referred to as a true “rags to riches” story.

Dhirubhai started off as a small time worker with Arab merchants in the 1950s and moved to Mumbai in 1958 to start his own business in spices. After making modest profits, he moved into textiles and opened his mill near Ahmedabad. Dhirubhai founded Reliance Industries in 1958 and today the company, with over 85,000 employees, provides almost 5% of the Central Government’s total tax revenue. Ambani was credited with introducing the¬†stock market¬†to the average investor, and thousands of investors attended the Reliance annual general meetings, which were sometimes held in a football stadium, with millions more watching on television.

In 1986 after a heart attack he handed over Reliance Group to his sons Mukesh and Anil. After his death, the group was split into Reliance Industries, headed by Mukesh Ambani and Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (Reliance ADAG), led by Anil Ambani.

Narayana Murthy

The co-founder of one of the most respected IT company in India, Narayana Murthy was born on August 20, 1946 in Mysore. After receiving his master’s degree from IIT Kanpur in 1969, he went on to join IIM Ahmedabad as chief systems programmer, where he worked on a time-sharing system and designed and implemented a BASIC interpreter for ECIL (Electronics Corporation of India Limited) and then worked for a while with Patni Computers. But greater things were in store for this shy genius. In 1981, with a capital of Rs 10,000 (borrowed from his wife), Murthy founded Infosys with six others including Nandan Nilekani and Kris Gopalakrishnan. Today the name for the company is synonymous with the story of India’s software industry.

Murthy articulated, designed and implemented the Global Delivery Model which has become the foundation for the huge success in IT services outsourcing from India. When Infosys went public in 1993, the IPO was under-subscribed and was bailed out by US investment banker Morgan Stanley which picked up 13% of equity at the offer price of Rs. 95 per share. By 1999, the share price surged to Rs. 8,100 and by the year 2000 Infosys’s shares touched Rs. 15,600.

By 2000, Infosys’ market capitalization reached Rs.11 billion and by 2001, Infosys was one of the biggest exporters of software from India. Over the years it has become clear that Murthy built an organization that was respected across the country, with very strong systems, high ethical values and a nurturing working atmosphere. With his sound management skills, Narayana Murthy seemed to have taken Infosys to the pinnacle of success in two decades. Murthy has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours. In 2008, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award by India and L√©gion d’Honneur, the highest civilian award awarded by France. He was one of the two people named as Asia’s Businessmen of the Year for 2003 by Fortune magazine. In 2001, he was named by TIME / CNN as one of the twenty-five, most influential global executives, a group selected for their lasting influence in creating new industries and reshaping markets.

In November 2006, TIME magazine again voted him as one of the Asian heroes who have brought about revolutionary changes in Asia in the last 60 years. Murthy also holds over 26 honorary doctorates from universities across the world, is IT Advisor to several Asian countries and serves on the board of many global companies and educational institutes.

Sunil Bharti Mittal

This telecom scion has certainly come a long way from making crankshafts for bicycles to becoming the founder, chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises — a US$7.2 billion turnover company that runs India’s largest GSM-based mobile phone service. A first generation entrepreneur, Mittal started his first business in April 1976 at the age of 18, with a capital investment of Rs 20,000 borrowed from his father. His first business was to make crankshafts for local bicycle manufacturers. In 1980 he sold his bicycle parts and yarn factories and moved to Mumbai. In 1981, he purchased importing licences from exporting companies in Punjab.

He then imported thousands of Suzuki Motors’s portable electric-power generators from Japan. The importing of generators was suddenly banned by the then Indian Government and just two licences to manufacture generators in India were issued to two companies. In 1984, he ventured for the first time into the telecom industry when he started assembling push-button phones in India replacing the old fashioned, bulky rotary phones that were in use in the country then.

Bharti Telecom Limited (BTL) was incorporated and entered into a technical tie up with Siemens AG of Germany for manufacture of electronic push button phones. By the early 1990s, Mittal was making fax machines, cordless phones and other telecom gear. In 1992, he successfully bid for one of the four mobile phone network licences auctioned in India. He was one of the first Indian entrepreneurs to identify the mobile telecom business as a major growth area. His plans were finally approved by the Government in 1994 and he launched services in Delhi in 1995, when Bharti Cellular Limited (BCL) was formed to offer cellular services under the brand name AirTel.

Within a few years Bharti became the first telecom company to cross the 2-million mobile subscriber mark. Bharti also brought down the STD/ISD cellular rates in India under brand name ‘Indiaone’.
He entered into the retail space in November 2006, when he struck a joint venture deal with Wal-Mart, the US retail giant, to start a number of retail stores across India.

In 2007, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour.

Azim Premji

Azim Hashim Premji (born 24 July 1945) is an Indian business tycoon and philanthropist who is the chairman of Wipro Limited, guiding the company through four decades of diversification and growth to emerge as one of the Indian leader in the software industry. According to Forbes, he is currently the third wealthiest Indian with a personal wealth of US$16.8 billion in 2011, as well as being the richest Indian Muslim.

In 2000, he was voted among the 20 most powerful men in the world by Asiaweek. He was also among the 50 richest people in the world from 1999 to 2005 according to¬†Forbes.¬†In April 2004, he was rated among the 100 most influential people in the world by¬†Time magazine. His assets include 74% of¬†Wipro. Wipro Limited, which dealt in hydrogenated cooking fats along with consumer products, grew from a company of US $2.5 million to a giant of $6 billion under Premji’s leadership. Wipro Technologies, one of its group companies, is one of India’s largest software companies and is ranked among the top 100 technology companies globally.

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