The Tata group of companies is India’s largest and best-known conglomerate, with a turnover of US$8 billion annually. Its origins go back to the late 19th century when Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata initiated an era of industrial growth which contributed to the process of nation-building. Beginning with a textile mill, the enterprises promoted by the group today encompass businesses in sectors as diverse as metals and associated industries; automobiles; engineering; energy; chemicals; consumer products; communications and information systems and services; hotels and property development; and financial services. Over 50 companies make up the group which has more than 250,000 employees.
Since 1887, when Jamsetji Tata identified steel, hydro-electric power and higher education as key areas to focus on, the Tata group has become involved in virtually every business opportunity which would help promote national growth. Several years ago, as part of a strategic plan, the group decided to increase the diversity of its operations and moved into high-tech sectors as well as sectors which have economic significance to India.
Good corporate citizenship and social responsibility has thus been deeply ingrained in the Tata group’s culture which views the community as the stakeholder.
The unit which is directly involved in automobile manufacture is Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO or more commonly referred to as Tata Engineering). It was established in 1945 to manufacture steam locomotives. In 1954, the company began making road-going commercial vehicles and had a collaboration with Daimler-Benz. This provided a base from which Tata Engineering began to develop its in-house competencies in automobile design and manufacture. By the time the collaboration ended in 1969, Tata Engineering had gained enough experience and knowledge to become an independent producer of Medium Commercial Vehicles which used very little imported components. It was able to develop its own models and manufacture them at its vast facilities in Mumbai.
From just one model, Tata Engineering’s range has broadened to more than 130 models and variants that includes trucks ranging from 2-tonne gross GVW to 40 tonnes and buses with 12-seater capacities to 66-seater capacities. These models have been exported to many countries including Malaysia, where they are assembled at the Malaysia Truck & Bus (MTB) plant in Pekan, Pahang, and distributed by Scott & English (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, both subsidiaries of the DRB-HICOM Group.
In recent years, Tata Engineering has progressed further to become a manufacturer of other types of automobiles. It has developed its own utility models and also a small passenger hatchback known as the Indica. As an indication of the growing capabilities of the company in this field, it showed off a sporty concept model called the Aria at this year’s Geneva Motorshow.
With its huge volume, Tata Engineering is the largest automobile company in India and ranks among the top ten commercial vehicle producers in the world. In its domestic market, it holds a 65% share of the medium and heavy as well as commercial vehicle segment as well as more than 25% of the multi-utility vehicle segment.
Tata Engineering has been exporting its commercial vehicles since 1961, mainly to Asia and Africa. But with the addition of models like the Telcoline 4×4 Crew Cab and the SUV-styled Safari 4WD, it has now begun to penetrate the European and Australian markets. There is also growing demand in the Latin American markets and while exports presently account for less than 10% of production, Tata Engineering is aiming to quickly increase the number in the course of this decade.