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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 18:13 GMT
Tata: A growing global giant
By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News

Ravi Kant
Ravi Kant wants Tata Motors to grow globally

Tata, which is buying Ford's British luxury subsidiaries Jaguar and Land Rover, is not only India's largest industrialist.

The Mumbai-based group's subsidiaries are major corporations in their own right, active in industries ranging from IT services to power generation, to tea production, to steel. In the UK it already owns Tetley Tea and steelmaker Corus.

Tata is an increasingly powerful multinational conglomerate with a market value of more than $70bn (35bn) and almost 290,000 people in its workforce in 80 countries. During the financial year to March 2007, its revenues of about 14bn were equivalent to some 3.2% of India's gross domestic product.

Yet it remains largely in the hands of the family of its founder Jamsetji Tata, while his grandson, Ratan Tata, 70, is its current chairman and figurehead.

As such, Mr Tata is not a traditional car industry executive - although the Tata Group has an automotive division.

Moreover, Tata Motors, which is managed by Ravi Kant, is in itself growing into a sprawling industrial conglomerate.

Cheap and expensive

Tata Motors is not only India's leading automaker, predominantly of commercial vehicles.

It is also an automotive partner with several foreign firms, including Fiat of Italy and formerly with the failed British carmaker MG Rover.

Ratan Tata
He's one of the most respected corporate chieftains in India.

In previous interviews with the BBC News website, Mr Kant has made the division's global ambitions clear, both as a conquering and growth exercise.

This is part of its diversification efforts aimed at reducing its dependence on the still relatively small, albeit fast-growing, Indian vehicle market.

As part of its international push, Tata Motors' shares were first listed on the New York Stock Exchange some four years ago and its cars and trucks are currently sold in countries in Africa and South America.

Tata Motors also owns the commercial vehicle operations of South Korea's Daewoo, an acquisition that has cemented its dominant role in the Indian market for heavy commercial vehicle, where it has an imposing 65% market share.

It is also involved in joint ventures with busmakers in Spain and Brazil.

Knowledge-based production

But more importantly in terms of the car industry is Tata's involvement as an engineering specialist.

Jaguar workers looking at the new XK model
Jaguar's new XK model will stand out in Tata's stable of models

Tata has worked closely with a string of Western carmakers, both in Germany where it has worked on Porsche's and Volkswagens, and in the US where it has linked up with both Ford and Chrysler.

In the UK, meanwhile, Tata has helped fund R&D involvement with Warwick University, where Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya has founded the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG).

Growing home market

Yet, in spite of such growing international involvement, it would be inadvisable to underplay Tata Motor's role back in India, where it fully expects to play a full part in both creating and servicing India's fast-growing vehicle market.

Tata's Nano
Tata Nano
3.1m long, 1.5m wide, 1.6m high
Can seat four to five people
Meets European emission standards
Costs 1 lakh, or 100,000 rupees
Tata hopes to eventually export the car
Source: AFP

In a previous interview with the BBC News website, Mr Tata explained how he envisaged growth in both car ownership and in the automotive industry in India could help lift more people out of poverty, a challenge he seemed to take seriously.

In the domestic market, Tata Motors' main focus is trucks, including pick-ups, and a range of cheerful small cars that includes the Nano, which at 1 lakh - or 100,000 - Indian rupee ($2,500; 1,252) is currently the world's cheapest car.

By contrast, models produced by Jaguar and Land Rover are amongst the world's most exclusive cars, retailing in the UK at more than 75,000 for a top-of-the-range Jaguar and some 60,000 for a high-end Range Rover.

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