Noel Tata, 53, will be the new MD at Tata International, a leather and engineering trading
company. The reclusive Tata grew the retail business more than 10-fold in less than a decade. Tata International has a presence in 10 African nations, a region where it wants to double revenues to $1 billion in two years. Group chairman Ratan Tata, 73, is due to retire in two years. There’s speculation Noel may succeed Ratan. While some believe that the group requires a professional as a head, instead of someone with the surname, others think that a family member could be more committed to the businesses to carry on the value system.
Noel Tata began his career at trading firm Tata International and rose to become a senior general manager. He was thrust into the job of heading Trent when retailing was at its infancy in India. With help from colleagues at group company Lakme, he opened his retail innings by taking over Bangalore-based Littlewoods, which eventually became Trent’s departmental store Westside. During his tenure, Trent’s turnover rose to Rs 1,137 crores from Rs 8 crore. Often criticized for his slow approach, he proved his critics wrong when all other retailers, except Trent, had to close down stores and retrench employees during the downturn.
Noel Tata grew Trent from a single store company in 1998 to over 90 stores across retail formats that include Westside, Star Bazaar, Landmark, Fashion Yatra, Sisley and Zara. He played a major role in forming the Retailers Association of India along with Future Group’s Kishore Biyani and Shoppers Stop’s B S Nagesh.