Frontrunner? Noel Tata, Ratan Tata's 53-year-old half-brother, has been promoted to head the Tata Group's international operations
A SUCCESSOR to replace veteran Ratan Tata as head of the Tata Group should be announced by March, the industrial conglomerate said.
The group's holding company, Tata Sons, formed a five-member panel earlier in the week to select a successor to run the group, which has annual sales of $71bn (£45bn) and 98 companies in its fold.
"We are working on this and will finalise something by February-March next. We will announce the name by then," Tata Sons director RK Krishna Kumar said last night.
Kumar, speaking on the sidelines of a shareholders' meeting, said the successor would be chosen far ahead of Ratan Tata's retirement to ensure a smooth transition.
Slated to step down by the end of 2012 when he turns 75, Tata spearheaded the group's international drive since taking over as chairman in 1991, buying such well-known names as British luxury cars Jaguar and Land Rover.
Tata also garnered headlines as the driving force behind the creation of the podlike Nano, billed as the world's cheapest "people's" car.
There has been widespread speculation over whether the top job will remain within the Tata founding family or go to an external candidate.
Ratan Tata, who was present at the shareholders' meeting, said: "We will be working rigorously for the next six to seven months on this."
Announcement of the panel search came days after the promotion of Noel Tata, Ratan Tata's 53-year-old half-brother, to head Tata Group's international operations.
The move fuelled talk he may be chosen to lead the group which embraces India's biggest outsourcing company, largest vehicle maker and a leading steelmaker.
Besides Noel Tata, other names mentioned as potential successors include Arun Sarin, former chairman of British mobile phone giant Vodafone, and Nuslia Wadia, chairman of textiles giant Bombay Dyeing.
Ratan Tata, an architect and great-grandson of founder Jamsetji Tata, has said the race is wide open, stipulating only that his successor must uphold the company's tradition of corporate responsibility.
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