MUMBAI: Generation Next has been making quiet progress in the $103-billion Tata Group. Leah, Maya and Neville, the children of Noel Naval Tata, Ratan Tata’s half-brother, are working their way up in group companies just like other professionals, senior officials familiar with the matter said.
Leah, the eldest, is with Indian Hotels Company, the operator of the Taj group of hotels. Younger daughter Maya works as an analyst at Tata Capital, the flagship financial services company. Neville is with retail chain Trent, which his father helped build. Their presence in the group has been kept under wraps for a while and little information is available in the public domain. They’ve been so discreet in the workplace that many of their colleagues probably don’t even know about their lineage.
All three have graduated from institutes in London and Spain, a senior official said. Leah did a Masters in marketing at the IE Business School in Madrid, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Aged between early 20s and early 30s, they are quiet and extremely well-behaved, have no hang-ups and are keen to work their way up the ladder, according to a senior official. The low-profile and mediashy Noel Tata, who is chairman of Trent and managing director of Tata International, has insisted that they shouldn’t get any preferential treatment, officials said. “Their father has given clear instructions to the respective organisations that they should be treated as regular employees,” said an official.
“They do not mention their surnames and have merged into the system,” a top official said. Noel Tata did not respond to an emailed questionnaire until press time. Leah, Maya and Neville have each been assigned to a business in which they have shown interest. Leah has spent most of the past 10 years with Indian Hotels, except for a three-month stint in 2010 when she interned with Louis Vuitton. She started her career as assistant sales manager at the Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces in 2006 and is now assistant manager – development.
Neville manages hyperlocal food at Trent, the operator of Westside, Star Bazaar and Landmark stores, which has a joint venture with Tesco. “He has been given the challenge of fixing that part which is still not making a lot of money,” an official said. “All of them are bright, humble and hardworking and will be great managers.” Another senior official said Noel Tata wanted them to be exposed to all aspects of business and learn the ropes.
“He did not want them to make the same mistake he did of being confined to certain parts of the business,” another official said. “Possibly, Noel is making sure they have enough exposure.” Ratan Tata, when asked about a successor for the Tata Group, had said in an interview in 2011 that Noel Tata was not ready for the responsibility. He said that Noel Tata should have had “greater exposure than he has had”.
“All successful family businesses ask their children to work in different business segments before their growth is accelerated,” said Kavil Ramachandran, executive director of the Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. “But Tatas are not like any other promoter family… they are not trying to make wealth for the family. The children will reach the top only if they are good. I don’t think they see themselves as successors.”
Noel Tata’s name frequently came up among the internal candidates shortlisted for the role of Tata Sons chairman, both when Ratan Tata stepped down in 2011 and when Cyrus Mistry was sacked in October. Not much is known about their family equations. Noel Tata is son of Naval H Tata and his second wife Simone. He is married to Aloo Mistry, the sister of former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry. While Cyrus Mistry and Noel Tata are known to have a cordial relationship, their interaction at board meetings chaired by Mistry was minimal.