Think about remarkably successful entrepreneurs. They’re logical. They’re rational. In the face of crisis or danger or even gross incompetence, they remain steely-eyed, focused, and on point. They don’t get angry–or at the very least they don’t show their anger.
This untold story is about great India business man Mr. Ratan Tata faced “humiliation” when they went to sell the group’s fledgling car business to Ford in 1999 and how he used it to fuel his motivation and great came back to “do a big favour” just nine years later by taking over the American giant’s marquee brands Jaguar and Land Rover.
Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors launched its first passenger car Tata Indica in year 1998. At that time, the ambitious car was not a commercial success in first few years and were facing strong competition from well estabilished small car brands like Maruti and Hyundai. The poor response had driven Tata Motors to sell the car business, within a year of its debut in 1998 and Ford Motor showed interest. Ford officials came down to our headquarters Bombay House and evinced interest in Tata Motors car devision.
Ratan Tata and other top executives went to Detroit for further discussions. While the meeting went on for nearly three hours, they discussed the sell-off with Ford officials but were meted out humiliating treatment.
Ford officials told Ratan Tata, “you do not know anything, why did you start the passenger car division at all. It will be a favour by buying car division from you.”.
Ratan Tata decided to return the same evening and while travelling, he was very tense as he felt very insulting.
After earlier failures, Tata Motors did very well and established itself as a reputable brand. Nine years after the ‘humiliation’, the clock turned a full circle and the salt-to-software conglomerate humbled the mighty Ford — which was on the verge of bankruptcy after the 2008 global financial meltdown. Tata Group showed interest in buying their luxury car brand Jaguar-Land Rover and bought it for whooping $2.3 billion US dollar, which amounted to 9300 crore in Indian Rupees at that time.
In the meeting, Ford chairman Bill Ford thanked Tata, saying ‘you are doing us a big favour by buying Jaguar-Land Rover’.
Within a few years of the buyout, JLR made a dramatic turnaround and is the mainstay of Tata Motors’ finances now.