Tata Group seeks head of business to replace Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata Ratan Tata has led the group's international drive

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India's Tata Group has said that it is looking for a successor to replace Ratan Tata as the head of the business group.

The group has appointed a five-member panel to select a successor by March 2011, a senior company official said.

The multinational conglomerate has 98 companies in industries ranging from IT services to power generation, to tea production, to steel and automobiles.

With annual sales of $71bn (£46bn) Tata is one of India's largest businesses.

It has been widely reported that 75-year-old Ratan Tata, who took over the chairman in 1991, would step down by the end of 2012.

The director of Tata Sons, the group's holding company, said the successor would be chosen ahead of Mr Tata's proposed retirement to ensure a smooth transition.

"We are working on this and will finalise something by February-March next year," RK Krishna Kumar was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency. "We will announce the name by then."

There has been media speculation over whether the job will remain within the founding Tata family or go to an outsider.

Ratan Tata is the great-grandson of the group's founder, Jamsetji Tata.

The names being mentioned in the media as his potential successor include his half-brother, Noel Tata, who heads the group's international operations, Arun Sarin, former chairman of British mobile phone company Vodaphone and Nusli Wadia, chairman of textiles company Bombay Dyeing.

After taking over as chairman in 1991, Ratan Tata revamped the operations of Tata Steel and made it one of the lowest-cost producers in the world.

He also launched India's first indigenous car, Indica, which turned around Tata Motors' fortunes.

Mr Tata led the company's international drive buying well known names like Jaguar and Land Rover.

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