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USC Trustee Ratan Tata inducted into National Academy of Engineering

by Nicole Duran
Ratan N. Tata flanked by Dean Yannis C. Yortsos and USC President C. L. Max Nikias in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Ratan N. Tata flanked by Dean Yannis C. Yortsos and USC President C. L. Max Nikias in Washington, D.C.

USC Trustee Ratan N. Tata added a new honor to his long list of accomplishments when the prestigious National Academy of Engineering (NAE) inducted him as a foreign associate on Oct. 6.

He was admitted for his “outstanding contributions to industrial development in India and the world,” according to the NAE. Tata joins 37 other USC faculty members and trustees who are members of the institution, including USC Viterbi School of Engineering Dean Yannis C. Yortsos and USC President C. L. Max Nikias.

“It is a great pleasure to congratulate Ratan Tata as he joins the National Academy of Engineering,” Nikias said. “His accomplishments as a visionary leader and business innovator are recognized and studied throughout the world. The revolutionary products he has steered to market have redefined 21st-century engineering and manufacturing paradigms, and created a period of unprecedented growth and prosperity that has benefited people all over the globe.”

Standing next to the famous Albert Einstein sculpture in the academy’s garden on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Tata said, “I’m very privileged and honored to have been given this distinction.”

Tata is chairman emeritus of Mumbai’s Tata Group, India’s largest and oldest conglomerate, which produces everything from tea to automobiles. As former chairman (1991-2012) of the major Tata companies — including Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Power, Tata Global Beverages, Tata Chemicals, Indian Hotels and Tata Teleservices — Tata greatly expanded the group’s revenues, which totaled more than $100 billion in 2011-12.

Throughout its highly successful history, the conglomerate has remained true to its core values of “integrity, understanding, excellence, unity and responsibility” and is known for being committed to employees’ welfare, investing in social-development initiatives and maintaining strict ethical guidelines.

Educated in the United States, Tata earned a Bachelor of Science degree in architecture from Cornell University in 1962. He worked briefly with Jones & Emmons in Los Angeles before returning to India in late 1962. He completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 1975.

Tata was appointed director-in-charge of National Radio & Electronics Co. Ltd. in 1971 and, a decade later, was named chairman of Tata Industries Ltd., which he transformed into a strategy think tank for the Tata Group and a promoter of new ventures in high-technology businesses. In 1991, he was appointed chairman of Tata Sons Ltd. He led the family of companies until 2012, when he was named chairman emeritus on his 75th birthday.

During his tenure, Tata collected many accolades and honors. In 2009, he was given an honorary knighthood by the British government. India bestowed its third-highest civilian honor, the Padma Bhushan, on Tata in 2000; then, in 2008, the government awarded him the country’s second-highest honor, the Padma Vibhushan. The Rockefeller Foundation presented him with a lifetime achievement award last year.

Tata is currently active as a board member of numerous international corporations and organizations. He is a trustee of the Ford Foundation and sits on the program board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s India AIDS Initiative. He is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry. He also sits on the international advisory boards of Mitsubishi Corp. and JPMorgan Chase, among others.

In addition to serving on USC’s Board of Trustees since 2005, Tata is also a trustee of Cornell and the Rand Corp. He is chairman of the government of India’s Investment Commission and a member of the Reserve Bank of India’s Central Board.

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