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Tata also kept its distance from the state in both its colonial and post-colonial avatars, the author states.

It has its origins in the Harvard University PhD thesis of Mircea Raianu, a historian of global capitalism and modern South Asia and currently Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland, who was "struck by the extraordinary continuity and resilience" of the Tata conglomerate "from its origins in the mid-19th century to its current position of importance to the Indian economy in the early 21st century".

He wondered why the region's academic literature did not feature more research on business groups over time and the outcome is "Tata -- The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism" (Harvard University Press) which tracks the fortunes of a family-run business that was born during the High Noon of the British Empire and went on to capture the world's attention with the headline-making acquisition of luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover.

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"There are indeed many other books on Tata, but none was written by professional historians in conversation with the latest scholarship (not just on business but also in other fields such as economic, legal, intellectual, social, and political history). There are of course a few exceptions, mainly on specialised topics or specific companies (Chikayoshi Nomura's excellent work on steelmaking at TISCO comes to mind)," Raianu told IANS in an interview.

"I spent around two years in total researching in libraries and archives in India, the UK, and the US. This is the first book-length study of Tata to use the company archives in Pune and Jamshedpur alongside state archives in Delhi, Mumbai, London, and elsewhere. I also conducted a few interviews with people within and outside the group, but most of the book is based on written and visual records (letters, reports, memos, plans, photographs, advertisements etc.)," he added.

To this extent, his fresh insights lie "in the selection and organization of material around an overall argument about Tata's relationship with the colonial and postcolonial state -- how, when, and why a private company in an emerging market context acted in opposition to the state or like a state itself," Raianu explained.

Thus, the six chapters are based on themes such as global financial connections, between paternalism and technology, control over land and labour, and the evolution of philanthropic networks that detail a complex process shaped by world-historical forces: the eclipse of Imperial free trade, the intertwined rise of nationalism and the developmental state, and finally the return of globalisation and market liberalisation.

The book details how "Tata's exceptional characteristics evolved gradually and contingently" in that it was not till the early 1930s that the group "ceased to rely on a far-flung network of trading companies run by family members" for technical and financial assistance.

"Around the same time, practices of scientific management imported from the West were introduced in the textile mills in Bombay and the steel town in Jamshedpur but never without compromises or countermeasures. Family and community ties remained important, often generating controversy when the financial reputation of the group was on the line, or when its philanthropy came under question in the Parsi community to which they belonged.

"The Tatas' ideas of ethical or socially responsible capitalism, common to many businesses in emerging markets, were not organic outgrowths of traditional religious values and norms, nor natural responses to mass poverty and a weak state. They were produced through unpredictable and intermittent flows of knowledge and expertise, as well as a conscious process of adaptation and experimentation," Raianu writes in the book.

Tata Groups My book is not intended as a comprehensive account or chronicle of the group. Photo by Unsplash

Although not unique in occupying a liminal position between empire and nation, Tata also kept its distance from the state in both its colonial and post-colonial avatars, the author states.

"The group carved out a unique niche for itself by separating the economic and political dimensions of 'swadeshi', giving only tepid support to the Indian National Congress while proudly assuming the mantle of industrialisation in the service of the nation-in-the-making. It enjoyed the 'best of both worlds' until World War II and independence when this niche began to disappear."

Rivals like G.D. Birla, who had openly supported and financed the Congress during the years of the independence struggle, moved closer to the corridors of power in New Delhi and as the restrictive "Licence-Permit Raj" took shape, the Tatas found themselves excluded from planning decisions, their further expansion restricted.

"Yet the group survived the transition to independence, held off the threat of nationalisation and maintained its position at the top of the corporate pyramid into the late 1970s, when the state laid down its regulatory weapons and embraced the private sector in a concerted push for growth," Raianu points out.

Tata, he writes, was "able to preserve and sustain a significant degree of autonomy over time due to three principal factors: transnational financial connections, first with East Asia and then with the United States, control over land, labour and natural resources within India; and networks of scientific and technical expertise cultivated through strategic philanthropy. All these factors, in different ways, conferred upon the group certain attributes of sovereignty in the interstices of state power".

Tata Groups He also disagreed that he was biased against Ratan Tata in general, or specifically regarding the conflict with Cyrus Mistry Photo by Unsplash

Many might fault Raianu for not taking the narrative beyond the lifting of the Emergency; that the 10-page Epilogue of the 291-page book (inclusive of an Appendix, Notes, Acknowledgements and Index that stretch over 90 pages), is no substitute because some of the group's best years have come in the 1980s and beyond; that it glosses over the role of Ratan Tata from the1990s onwards and the fact that the Tata group is one of the two players in the running for the privatisation of Air India, the airline that J.R.D. Tata founded and nurtured till it was nationalised in 1953.

It might also seem to some that the author is biased against Ratan Tata because of the spat with Cyrus Mistry, which, in the overall context of the group is seen only as a minor hiccup. (What do you expect when someone tries to overturn the very focus of the group and all that it has stood for all these years?)

"My book is not intended as a comprehensive account or chronicle of the group. It can serve as a platform for further research by others who will make different choices about what to include and exclude," Raianu said in the interview, acknowledging this "may be unsatisfying to some readers" but citing three reasons.

"First, archival sources (both from the Tata and state archives) are quite limited for the period after 1980. Second, this moment provided a natural endpoint for the three trends that interest me (use of global financial connections to circumvent the state, land and labour control, and the transition from philanthropy to CSR). Third, the recent history of the group has been amply covered by other studies and the contribution I could have made was limited."

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He also disagreed that he was biased against Ratan Tata in general, or specifically regarding the conflict with Cyrus Mistry.

"As a historian, I wanted to discuss how the issues brought up by this episode (in particular, the tension between investments on a global vs. national scale and the role of the Tata Trusts in the overall structure of the group) are similar to what happened in Tata's past. I do not take a position on who was right and wrong. Nor can I predict the future and know whether it will be only a 'minor hiccup' or if it will have more lasting significance," Raianu concluded. (IANS/AD)


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An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets

An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets, using data from the NASA Kepler Space Telescope's K2 mission.

The findings, described in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal, showed a planetary system that comprises a star and at least two gas giant planets, each roughly the size of Saturn and located unusually close to one another.

The discovery is significant because it's rare to find gas giants -- like Saturn in the solar system -- as close to their host star as they were in this case.

The researchers cannot yet explain why it occurred there, but it makes the finding especially useful because it could help scientists form a more accurate understanding of the parameters for how planets and planetary systems develop.

"The discovery of each new world provides a unique glimpse into the physics that play a role in planet formation," said lead author Jon Zink, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar.

The findings could be a significant step toward helping astronomers understand which types of stars are most likely to have planets orbiting them and what that indicates about the building blocks needed for successful planet formation, acoording to the study.

"We need to look at a wide range of stars, not just ones like our sun, to understand that," Zink said.

The term "exoplanets" is used to describe planets outside of the solar system. The number of exoplanets that have been identified by astronomers numbers fewer than 5,000 in all, so the identification of hundreds of new ones is a significant advance.

Kepler's original mission came to an unexpected end in 2013 when a mechanical failure left the spacecraft unable to precisely point at the patch of sky it had been observing for years.

But astronomers repurposed the telescope for a new mission known as K2, whose objective is to identify exoplanets near distant stars. Data from K2 is helping scientists understand how stars' location in the galaxy influences what kind of planets are able to form around them. (IANS/JB)


In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)

By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Officials of the Indian space sector, both serving and retired, are of the view that the space sector's organisational structure is expected to mirror that of India's atomic energy sector.

They also said that senior officials of the Indian space agency should address the employees on what is happening in the sector and how it will pan out so that uncertainty and confusion are addressed.

In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is at the top, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the sectoral regulator while the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (both power companies), the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, and IREL (India) Ltd are public sector units (PSU).

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The Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre (BARC), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) are the premier research and development (R&D) organizations and there are several DAE-aided organizations.

While the DAE is headed by a Secretary (normally from the R&D units) who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the R&D centres and PSUs are headed by different persons.

Similarly, the government that has started the space sector reforms seems to be replicating the atomic energy model, several officials told IANS.

"The Central government's moves in the space sector seems to replicate the atomic energy model," an official told IANS.

Currently, the Department of Space (DOS) is at the top and below that, comes the private sector space regulator Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) with various R&D-cum-production (rockets, satellites and others) units.

The sector has two PSUs - Antrix Corporation Ltd and NewSpace India Ltd.

Unlike the atomic energy sector, the Secretary of the DOS and Chairman of the Space Commission is also the Chairman of the ISRO.

As part of the space sector reform measures, the government has set up IN-SPACe as a regulator for the private sector players.

"Ultimately there will be only one sectoral regulator. There cannot be two regulators - one for the private sector and other for the public sector. Who will be the regulator if there is a company that is floated in public-private partnership," an official asked.

"It is good that there is a separate sectoral regulator outside of the DOS and the ISRO," an official said.

The recently-formed PSU NewSpace India has been mandated to build, own satellites, rockets and also provide space based services and transfer ISRO-developed technologies to others.

ISRO Chairman and Secretary DOS K.Sivan has been saying that ISRO will focus on high end research.

As a result, the positions of Secretary, DOS and Chairman, ISRO may not be held by the same person.

"Looking forward, there are possibilities of the government coming out with a voluntary retirement scheme for ISRO officials and merging its various production centres with NewSpace to synergise its operations," a former senior official of ISRO told IANS.

"But there is one issue in this proposition. For ISRO, the production centres are also its R&D centre. Both production and R&D are interwoven. One has to see how both will be separated to be housed under ISRO and NewSpace India."

Meanwhile, the minds of ISRO officials are filled with uncertainty and confusion about their future which is linked to that of their organization.

ISRO Staff Association General Secretary G.R.Pramod had told IANS that there is "uncertainty all around about the future of about 17,300 employees of ISRO".

"The ISRO top management that includes the Chairman and the Heads of various centres should come out openly and address the employee concerns at the earliest," an official added.

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The micro-blogging platform already covers explicit instances of abusive behaviour

Twitter has announced to ban sharing of private media, such as photos and videos, without permission from the individuals that are shown in those images.

The micro-blogging platform already covers explicit instances of abusive behaviour under its policies, the expansion of the policy will allow the platform to take action on media that is shared without any explicit abusive content, provided it's posted without the consent of the person depicted.

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"Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person's privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm," Twitter said in a blog post late on Tuesday.

"The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities. When we receive a report that a Tweet contains unauthorised private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options," the company informed.

Under the existing policy, publishing other people's private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter.

This includes threatening to expose private information or incentivising others to do so.

"There are growing concerns about the misuse of media and information that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals," Twitter said.

When Twitter is notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorised representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, it removes it.

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