In many ways, the Indica started a trend in the Tata group. Every year since, Ratan Tata has feted individuals or teams that have worked on an interesting project even if it didnt succeed, under a programme called Dare to Fail. The Nano is, of course, the pinnacle of this innovation journey, but there have been other successes as well. Among them is Swach, a low cost water purifier aimed at making clean drinking water hard to find in rural areas available to the economically weak. Swach began as a corporate social responsibility initiative by TCS and soon became a business idea, commercially viable on its own. He (Tata) has played a strong role in encouraging innovation, but he has not been alone in this, Witzel says. Tatas leadership style is to suggest ideas, offer encouragement and motivation, not to lead the charge.
Its clearly an approach that has paid off. The groups aggregate sales at the end of 2011 12, at Rs.4.51 trillion, are 43 times the turnover in 1992 93, the first full fiscal after Tata took over as chairman. Net profit growth in the same period has been even more spectacular, rising 51 times to Rs.33,664 crore. The aggregate market capitalization of the group at Rs.4.54 trillion in fiscal 2012 is 33 times higher than it was in 1992 93. In the same period, the Sensex, the benchmark equity index of BSE, grew nearly eight times. The Tata groups closest competitor, in terms of turnover, is the oil to yarn and retail conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). RILs net sales in fiscal 2012 were Rs.3.58 trillion and it had a net profit of Rs.19,747 crore. Though RILs revenue growth in these two decades has been much higher than the Tatas, having grown 90 times, its net profit growth is lower. The result of Tatas strategic thinking reflects in the groups market capitalization, Piramal said. What Tata did after taking over wasnt very different from what Kumar Mangalam Birla did with the Aditya Birla Group after his fathers death. Kumar Birla took over as chairman of the group in 1995 at the age of 28 after his fathers sudden death and is credited with transforming the Indian business group into a multinational conglomerate.