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The Ratan Tata I Knew: 'He has an amazing ability to remember people's names'

Rajiv Gujral, currently the managing director of IHMS Hotels (SA) (PTY) Ltd, a joint venture between Tata International and Indian Hotels Co Ltd (IHCL, speaks to Suman Layak about how he remembers Ratan Tata.

Rajiv Gujral | January 28, 2013 | Updated 13:53 IST

The biggest thing about working with Ratan Tata is his humility, his down-to-earth nature, a degree of warmth and an ability to remember names.

As I was in charge of the international operations of Indian Hotels, I often accompanied him to international properties. I remember going to the Maldives with him - we had lunch together and he put me completely at ease. While you are aware of his presence, you are never worried that you are sitting with Ratan Tata. He is extremely easy to talk to and listens with a lot of patience.

He was always concerned about the lifestyle experience that guests had at the Taj Hotels and would stay in these properties to experience the same. I also remember travelling with him to the Seychelles and Dubai properties. He had a great aesthetic sense and took interest in the design of these properties.

I remember once, almost nine years ago, picking up the ringing phone in my office to find him on the other side of the line - that was his style. If he wanted to talk he would call directly without the help of a secretary. I had just lost my wife, I thought he might have heard and called me to express his condolences. But no, he did not know and had called to discuss business.

His ability to remember people by their first names was amazing. I remember another incident two years back when I was rushing out of the Taj in Mumbai after attending a function and suddenly I heard someone calling me by my first name. I turned around to see Ratan Tata coming up to me. He inquired about something and then as his car came he got into the driver's seat and drove away. It was his usual practice to drive himself.

(As told to Suman Layak)

Rajiv Gujral is currently Managing director of IHMS Hotels (SA) (PTY) Ltd, a joint venture between Tata International and Indian Hotels Co Ltd (IHCL, Taj Group) based in South Africa. Previously he was chief operating officer at IHCL for its international operations.

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