April 8, 2020
How Tata Built India: Two Centuries of Indian Business

How Tata Built India: Two Centuries of Indian Business


Tata: the industrial conglomerate that lies
at the heart of India’s success on the global business stage. For almost two centuries, the Tata Group has
pioneered multiple industries in India and remains a market leader in most of them. You’ve probably heard of Tata Motors, their
car division, but as you’ll soon find out, their reach extends far beyond that one subsidiary. In this video, we’ll go through through
three generations of Tata businessmen to see how they built one of India’s most successful
companies. This video is brought to you by Skillshare,
where I just released my second class on investing that dives much deeper into how stocks work
and how you can value them. You can watch my new class for free by registering
with the link in the description. The story of Tata begins during the reign
of the British Empire. India back then was a huge exporter of cotton,
but the brutal regime of the British East India Company left little room for local entrepreneurs
to develop. The poor treatment by the British eventually
resulted in a rebellion against them, in 1857, which ended the power of the British East
India Company and replaced it with the British Raj. Now, compared to its ruthless predecessor,
the Raj was much more focused on keeping the peace. The Raj didn’t exploit the Indian population
quite as harshly and it also invested a lot of money in building India’s first railways
for example. Of course, at the end of the day, the British
Raj was still an oppressive colonial power, but at least it finally gave the local population
the economic opportunity to develop themselves. Because India was an exporting country, the
first Indian entrepreneurs came from exactly that sector and one of them was Jamsetji Tata. He was the son of an exporter in Mumbai and
he graduated in 1858, exactly the perfect time to take advantage of the economic reforms
of the British Raj. Because his father’s export business was
growing, in 1859 Jamsetji went to Hong Kong to develop a subsidiary there and upon seeing
the sheer scale of British commerce there, he realized that the Tata export business
had truly global potential. Over the course of the next decade he would
travel to Japan, China and Great Britain, establishing a network of distribution for
his father’s business. He’d eventually create his own exporting
company in 1868 and using the money he made, he started building textile mills of his own,
effectively creating a vertically-integrated business. From the very start Jamsetji’s philosophy
was find the best practices used across the world and to bring them back to India. In his textile mills he enacted policies that
were virtually unknown to most of India, like offering sickness benefits and pensions to
his employees. But Jamsetji wasn’t content with just the
textile industry: he saw the wonders the Industrial Revolution had created in Europe and he wanted
to recreate them back home. He began working on a steel production plant
in 1901, modeled after the ones he had seen in Germany. Even more ambitious was his hydroelectric
project, inspired by his visit to the Niagara Falls power plant in 1903. Jamsetji realized the incredible power of
tourism and so he also created a chain of hotels, starting with the Taj Mahal Palace
Hotel, which even today is one of the most recognizable buildings in Mumbai. Jamsetji was truly a man dedicated to business
and to helping people through it: he valued education to the point where he donated land
and buildings towards the creation of the Indian Institute of Science, the eminent university
of India. He would not, however, live to see most of
his projects realized, because he died while on a business trip in Germany in 1904, leaving
the already sizable Tata company to his two sons. Together they consolidated their ownership
into a single holding company, which in turn is owned by the charitable trusts they created
for future generations. Jamsetji’s sons fulfilled many of their
father’s ambitions: they oversaw the creation of India’s first steel works in 1907, India’s
first cement plant in 1912 and the first indigenous insurance company in 1919. By the time the leadership mantle passed onto
the next generation in 1938, Tata Sons was comprised of 14 different companies. This time, however, instead of it going to
one of Jamsetji’s grandsons, leadership instead went into the hands of a distant cousin
with a very interesting background. Jehangir Tata, better known as JRD, had been
in the company since 1925, but he had been raised in France and was a close friend to
the man who made the first flight across the English Channel. In other words, JRD was a passionate aviator
and in 1929 he obtained India’s first pilot license, so unsurprisingly his first big project
at Tata was to develop an airline. In 1932 he created the Tata Air Service, which
originally only carried mail, but then in 1938 started doing passenger flights as well,
even helping out the British in the Second World War. Now, you’d imagine India’s independence
in 1947 would’ve been beneficial to the Tatas, but in reality the socialist policies
of the newly-created government were at odds with private business. India’s first prime minister saw just how
successful JRD had been with his airline and in 1953 he unilaterally decided to nationalize
it. He kept JRD as the airline’s chairman until
1977 and as you can imagine, the company only went downhill from there, drowning in ever-increasing
debt. Of course, JRD would not let politics get
in the way of business and so he did his best to grow Tata while avoiding the wrath of the
socialists. He created Tata Motors in 1945, originally
with the idea of building locomotives, but in 1954 he branched out into commercial vehicles
through a partnership with the German car company Daimler. Over the course of his 52 years of leadership,
JRD expanded the Tata Group from 14 companies to 95, but to do that he had dramatically
lower the ownership Tata Sons had in each one in order to appease the socialists. In 1969 the Indian government introduced the
Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, which was essentially targeted at Tata
even though they were very far from a monopoly by western standards. But as JRD expanded the group and lowered
its ownership in the individual subsidiaries, he started losing control. Some of his companies just weren’t performing
and the man he sent to fix them was this guy: Ratan Tata. He is one of Jamsetji’s great-grandchildren
and he joined the Tata Group in 1962. His first major project came in 1971 and it
was pretty difficult: Ratan was given charge of a struggling Tata company known as NELCO,
which in the 1950s was India’s biggest producer of radios, but just twenty years later it
had fallen to a 3% market share. Ratan’s focus was on technology and the
future, so instead of trying to salvage the radio, he instead funded the development of
new products like satellite communications, which restored NELCO in the 1980s and made
Ratan the apparent successor of JRD. Ratan claimed leadership of the Tata Group
in 1991, right as a wave of economic liberalization swept across India. The socialists lost power and India finally
joined the global capital market, but this presented a big threat to Tata. Up until now it had operated in a very protected
economy, which was suddenly open to competition from foreign companies. Worse yet, JRD had let Tata become extremely
decentralized, so it would be very slow to adapt to new competitors. Ratan had no choice but to re-establish ownership
over all the Tata subsidiaries and that didn’t come cheap. He sold 20% of Tata Sons, the holding company,
and used that money to buy shares in the Tata subsidiaries, especially Tata Steel and Tata
Motors. He then reorganized all hundred subsidiaries
into seven sectors, establishing a framework along which he could actually control them. But just wielding power isn’t enough to
turn around a struggling business and in the 1990s pretty much every Tata company was losing
ground to international competitors. Ratan’s answer, however, was brilliant:
he started acquiring foreign competitors and absorbing them into the Tata Group, effectively
buying all their talent and supply chains and experience in order to strengthen his
business back home in India while also expanding internationally. Ratan’s buying spree began in the year 2000
when his beverage company, Tata Tea, acquired the Tetley company from Great Britain. Over the next decade Ratan ended up acquiring
hundreds of companies for pretty much every subsidiary in the Tata Group. Most notably, he purchased the European steel
titan Corus for $12 billion in 2007 and then Jaguar Land Rover for $2 billion in 2008. As you can imagine, the international buying
spree has been paying dividends for Tata and today the majority of their revenues actually
come from outside of India. What’s even more beautiful is that the majority
of Tata subsidiaries are actually public companies whose shares you can purchase on the stock
market in India. And if buying stocks and being a shareholder
sounds appealing to you, well then you’re probably gonna be happy to learn that I’ve
just released my second course on Skillshare about the stock market. My first one was a very general introduction,
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people to sign up for Skillshare using the link in the description. Let me know if you enjoy it and consider sharing
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this video and if you’re not a subscriber yet, well you know what to do. Anyway, you can expect my next video two weeks
from now, and until then: stay smart.

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