Walton (Walmart), Rockefeller, Gates – names most of us know by heart and consider synonymous with wealth or power in America. Almost everyone has been to a Walmart, and we all know about the transformations to personal computing that Gates brought about, but have you ever stopped to think that perhaps we only know these names because we live in America? That perhaps the word Walmart is meaningless in other parts of the world?
Well, it may seem intuitive to some of you, but I was actually surprised to realize that the names I take for granted as common knowledge in America may not be household names around the world. On top of that, I realized that there are plenty of these “super-rich” families around the world that may be household names in their country of origin, but on-the-whole go unknown internationally.
This realization all began with the word “Tata.” In the local language of Gujarati, the word “Tata” means “goodbye” and is a common way for people to part ways. It’s also one of the simplest Gujarati phrases, so children are prone to pick it up early in their vocabulary – like “bye-bye” in America; every day we leave our building to the sound of Aneri (our 2 year old neighbor) screaming “Tata” off her balcony – she hasn’t quite gotten the hang of volume control yet.
But “Tata” is more than a simple farewell. Soon after arriving in India, Wende and I started to notice the word “TATA” stamped on all kinds of products (see the bottom of this post for examples we’ve documented). We would notice it on a car, on a bag of salt at the grocery store, and even on the satellite dish of a neighbor. Eventually we asked someone about it, and they were surprised that we had never heard of the ubiquitous “TATA” (just like we would be surprised if they hadn’t heard of Walmart).
It turns out that TATA has a hand in just about everything in India – on their Wikipedia page it says TATA “encompasses seven business sectors: communications and information technology, engineering, materials, services, energy, consumer products and chemicals”…. That description doesn’t leave much out of the entire human experience. Last year they had a revenue of over $100 Billion, and $360 Billion in assets – as a reference Microsoft had revenues of ~$85 Bil and $173 Bil in assets. Wende actually said, “I think they’re called ‘TATA’ because they make everyone say ‘goodbye’ to their money.”
The legacy of TATA all started with Nusserwanji Tata, the first businessman in a long family line of Parsi priests who went off to Mumbai to make a name for himself. In 1839, his life was blessed with a little baby boy named Jamsetji. Jamsetji was born in the city of Navsari Gujarat – which coincidentally happens to be the closest city to our rural tiny village of Kharel (a sheer 20 minute drive away). While Nusserwanji senior may have been the first Tata to try his hand at business, it was his son Jamsetji who went on to be considered the “father of Indian industry.” Jamsetji founded the TATA Group in 1868, which has developed into one of the largest companies in India with over 100 different subsidiaries.
Some fun facts about TATA Group:
- They own Jaguar and Landrover.
- They donated $50 Million to Harvard Business School (2010), the largest international donation ever received by the school.
- They still maintain their head offices in a small (semi run-down) historic building called the Bombay House in Mumbai.
During our time in India, we tried to stay vigilant of any time the TATA name made an appearance. Below we’ve compiled a sampling of some of our impromptu TATA run-ins, along with some of the other product offerings of TATA. To see a full list of the TATA companies and product offerings – click here.
Most of the information for this blog post is thanks to Wikipedia and the pages surrounding the TATA family and corporation. To read more, click here.
Thanks for wasting some of your perfectly good time with the Oslocks – Until next time 😀