Mumbai: Tata conglomerate is looking around the world for a successor to Ratan Tata, the 71-year old chairman of the sprawling salt-to-steel group said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Wednesday.
Local and foreign candidates were being looked at to head the group, which includes Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services and Tata Power among its 27 listed companies.
"We are in the process of formalising a successor to me. We have some outside consultants and a formal search process is on. There are no constraints," Tata, who has steered the group for nearly two decades, said in the interview.
The successor could be from within the group or outside, Tata said, adding he hoped the person would carry on the growth path that had been set. All but one of the group's past chairmans have been Tatas, although at the moment no family candidate has been publicly identified to take over the role.
"It would certainly be easier if that candidate were an Indian national. But now that 65 percent of our revenues come from overseas, it could also be an expatriate sitting in that position with justification now," Tata said.
Tata group's 98 operating companies have annual revenues of $71 billion and 357,000 employees, its website shows. The group, founded in 1868, runs India's top vehicle maker, top software services firm, top private sector power producer and the world's eighth-largest steel maker by output.
Ratan Tata has led the group's international expansion. In 2007, Tata Steel paid $13 billion to buy Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus, and Tata Motors paid $2.3 billion to acquire Jaguar Land Rover in 2008.
He said the group was still digesting those acquisitions, which had been made harder due to the global financial crisis and economic downturn. The downturn pushed Tata to ask his group companies to undertake a major cost-cutting drive.
"Tata Motors was able to extinguish its borrowing of $3 billion through this difficult period, and most people don't realise the magnitude of that task," he said.
Tata said the conglomerate model would continue to work reasonably well in India despite falling apart in other parts of the world, saying when the group had tried to shed some business it ran into strong objections from employees and the public.
First Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 15:05