At 63, most company executives would be considered to be past their prime. Not so Ravi Kant, MD of Tata Motors, who took over as President of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) on September 5.
An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Kant has had a long and varied career, leading Philips India’s Consumer Electronics Division, but what must have endeared him to the Tatas was his previous stint with the conglomerate when he helped launch Titan Watches.
Kant joined Tata Motors in 1999 (it was still called Telco then) when it was just beginning its foray into passenger cars. That was also the time when the commercial vehicles market was experiencing a slump. Under Kant, this division, which was (and is) Tata Motors’ bread and butter department, reinvented itself.
The company launched a whole new range of commercial vehicles and bolstered its market share. Therefore, it came as little surprise when Kant was elevated from Executive Director to Managing Director in July 2005.
Kant, who, along with B. Muthuraman, MD of Tata Steel, is considered Ratan Tata’s right hand man, also played a critical role in the acquisition of ailing Korean company Daewoo’s commercial vehicles unit, which has turned out to be a surprisingly prescient acquisition. He also played the key role in the tie-ups with Spanish company Hispano Carrocera (where Tata Motors has a 21 per cent stake) and Brazilian firm Marco Polo—critical steps in Tata Motors’ dream of becoming a truly global manufacturer of commercial vehicles.
However, Kant’s main job over the coming year will be the launch of the much-anticipated “one-lakh” car as well as successfully implementing Tata Motors’ tie-up with Italian carmaker Fiat S.p.a even as it rejuvenates its entire product line-up, including the Indica, to power ahead in the increasingly competitive auto market.
Even if the price target of Rs 1 lakh is not met, Kant feels that the “one-lakh car” will dramatically transform the way Indians travel, and bring safe mobility to a whole class of consumers who do not have it. And while Ratan Tata will be remembered for being the visionary who dreamt up the car, Kant realises that he will be remembered, for better or for worse, as the man who delivered it.