May 22, 2011

Mukesh Ambani's house shows lack of empathy for poor: Ratan Tata


Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata has described Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani's 27-storey Mumbai home, Antilla , as an example of rich Indians' lack of empathy for the poor.

"It makes me wonder why someone would do that. That's what revolutions are made of," Tata said in an interview to The Times, London, when asked about Ambani's house. The Times had asked Tata the question in the context of widening income inequalities in India.

Tata also told The Times: "The person who lives in there should be concerned about what he sees around him and [asking] can he make a difference. If he is not, then it's sad because this country needs people to allocate some of their enormous wealth to finding ways of mitigating the hardship that people have."

The 73-year-old tycoon added: "We are doing so little about the disparity [in India]. We are allowing it to be there and wishing it away."

Tata, who has been questioned in the 2G scam case, told the British newspaper that he regretted that his conglomerate couldn't enter the growing aerospace industry in India. He said his attempts to enter the segment were thwarted by corruption. Corruption, he said, was "a major problem and was, in itself, "really frustrating".

Tata, due to retire next year, admitted that the search for his successor was taking longer than envisaged; one of the likely successors is his halfbrother, Noel Tata. The paper quoted Tata as saying he was not involved in the search for his successor, but suggesting that he did not think Noel, who took over as head of international operations last year, was ready for the role.

"I think if he is to run this he should have greater exposure than he has had. Partly his not having it has been his own choice," Tata told the paper.

Tata said the UK, where he runs businesses as diverse as tea to automobiles to steel, was in the grip of an erroneous belief that "we are no longer capable of making things and are destined to rely on the financial sector and service industries to keep our islands afloat".

He added, "I have a greater degree of bullishness about the UK and what it stands for. But nobody seems to want to exert the effort to make the UK truly competitive or bring it back to the glory that it was."

The UK, Tata told The Times, "needs a real push. It needs nationalism. The sort of spirit that comes during a war. It needs people really to want to see the UK sitting again, maybe not as a colonial power, but as an economic power".

He told the paper that India was lucky to have a Barack Obama in the US and a David Cameron in the UK. "Both of them are open to ideas; they are very pragmatic in their views. Each of them feels that India is a land of some opportunity for themselves," he said.

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