Home Diaries The Ratan Tata I know: inspiring a generation

The Ratan Tata I know: inspiring a generation

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In my entrepreneurial journey, Iʼve had the opportunity to meet and interact with many business leaders globally. Many of them have also become either investors, partners, mentors or all of the above. No one has been as important or as special to Ola and me as Mr Ratan Tata.

Iʼve been reading in the Press about the ongoing controversy. What seems to be a case of a large shareholder losing trust and confidence has become “heels dug in” public fight with a lot of mud being thrown around. I felt it was important for me, in this context, to share my experiences with Mr Tata.
Mr Tata has been very active in investing and supporting the young startup ecosystem. His investment amounts are small and clearly wouldnʼt make much of impact to him either way financially if the company does well or not. Itʼs very clear that he does this out of passion and through a desire to help and engage with the community.

Mr Tata invested in us 18 months ago and I have had the benefit of interacting with him almost a dozen times since then. I had always heard about him as a kid but interacting with him so closely has been one of the highlights of the past year for me.

I will share three instances and hopefully through these stories, my respect and admiration for his personality, and the selfless help he has given us will come across.
I remember very clearly when I met him first. He had flown in from New York in the morning and was meeting me just a couple of hours after coming in. Had I been in his place, I would have been asleep due to jet lag. But here he was, almost 50 years older than me, full of passion and energy!
It was clear in the first meeting that automobiles were a personal passion for Mr Tata and we spent much more than the scheduled time discussing both my business, and automobiles and technology trends in my business.

He described the evolution of the automobile to me, the evolution of Tata Motors, and also spoke dispassionately about both successes and challenges he had faced. He asked me a lot of questions and to my surprise, he knew a lot about my business even though he had never met me!

I have continued meeting him and he has always found time for me, sometimes calling me home late at night even if he was not well, or meeting me early mornings. I have always been inspired by the energy he has and the sparkle in his eyes whenever I describe something new to him.
In one of my interactions with him, I casually suggested that he should come to our offices in Bangalore as our team would be inspired to interact with him. To my surprise, he agreed and made a full day trip to Bangalore just to spend time with my team! He not only met my senior leadership, but also held a townhall with a thousand people in attendance! His visit is something our team remembers even today very clearly. This is another example of his humbleness and encouragement for both Ola and me.
 Another time, I shared my interest in electric vehicles with him. He took a full day off, flew me down to Coimbatore with him to show me an electric vehicle project he was working on and even sat and brainstormed with me on various business models that would make the economics work!

For the first time, I was “working” with him. His attention to detail, focus, creativity, and even his trademark humour were so evident. He even pointed out a hard wound pedal to the mechanic during test drives that I totally missed!

Iʼm personally lucky to have a mentor like him and his humbleness, passion, and energy make him so different, iconic, and widely respected! The entire startup ecosystem and even the Indian industry are lucky to have a person of his stature and selfless commitment!
By Bhavish Aggarwal