Ratan Naval Tata joins the select group of NIAS Honorary Distinguished Fellows


Mr Ratan Naval Tata was conferred  Honorary Distinguished Fellowship of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, in recognition of his eminent, exemplary corporate leadership and service to society, on 24thAugust 2016. In a simple ceremony, marked by informality, at Mr Tata’s residence overlooking the sea in south Mumbai, the Director of NIAS, Prof Baldev Raj, handed him  scroll in the presence of Mr S Ramadorai, Chairman NIAS Council of Management. Other members of the NIAS faculty present on the occasion were Prof NarendarPani, Secretary NIAS Council of Management, and Dr Mukund Rao. His Holiness, Dalai Lama and Justice M N Venkatachalaiah  are also Honorary Distinguished Fellows of NIAS.

Ratan N Tata has over the years shown a keen interest in the efforts of NIAS in pursuit of the vision set for the Institute by JRD Tata to develop multidisciplinary research, use it to grow leaders and find solutions to national challenges.  On this occasion too, he found time for an extended informal discussion with the team from NIAS, in which he provided valuable insights for current priorities and future directions of NIAS.  As Prof Baldev Raj narrated highlights of each of the programmes in NIAS,  R N  Tata revealed a deep interest marked by a keen eye for detail, based on his vast wisdom, experiences and uncanny abilities.

He was particularly interested in the courses NIAS conducts for senior executives, scientists and administrators. When informed that these courses were not so much about instructing the participants in the details of specific fields as much as offering them a series of seminars involving major Indian voices, Mr Tata found the process promising. He was keen to know the details of the structure of the courses, including the time spent on discussions. The team from NIAS provided him these details pointing out that these courses allowed ample time for discussion not just between the speakers and the participants but also among the participants themselves. Mr Tata wanted to know the mechanisms used to ensure the discussions did not go out of hand and retained a constructive character. He also observed that when there was so much scope for interaction, no two courses would be the same. He wondered aloud whether it was possible, given the difference between individual courses on the same topic, for the same participants to return for another round of the same course.

Ratan N Tata was also of the view that major academic institutions do not always grow evenly. He provided examples of academic institutions from around the world where the success of specific departments developed the brand of the institution allowing other departments to function, even if only in their shadow.  The Harvard Kennedy School may be known for its work on governance, but it had several other Centres in it. Mr Tata believed that NIAS too should follow a similar growth strategy with deep expertise and capacity to make substantial differences to national challenges rather than spreading its resources over the entire set of programmes.  Thus, greater resources should be provided to the more successful programmes in the context of clear outcomes. The success of these programmes would build the reputation of the Institute as a whole, thereby providing space for other programmes to find their feet and then grow.

Prof. Baldev Raj presented a few publications to Mr Ratan N Tata, thanked him for his kind guidance and keen interest.

Ratan Tata was invited by Prof. Baldev Raj to come to NIAS for interactions with faculty, students and select citizens of Bengaluru.  He was gracious to readily accept the invitation.