Outgoing Chairman of Tata Sons Ratan Tata kept West Bengal’s hopes on an automobile unit alive and said that a factory here could not be ruled out.
“We have no difference or bias”, he said, adding that that he had no sense of anger, just sadness that something could not be done in the State. .
“The case (Singur) is sub-judice today, and whatever the outcome is, I think, we will respect the law of the land, and the wishes of the Bengal government, “he said responding to queries on the Singur issue by shareholders at the annual general meeting of Tata Global Beverages (TGB).
A violent agitation led by the Trinamool Congress against alleged forcible acquisition of land at Singur led the Tatas to relocate a nearly completed project in October 2008. Revealing his diehard optimistic side, he said: “One day when we believe that the environment is friendly at the political level and we will be here... the people have always been friendly,” he observed, adding that it was out of his affinity for the state that he tried to bring the small car manufacturing facility here.
He also announced that there were no plans to shift the company’s registered office.
“From time to time, I will be here to attend meetings.. next year, perhaps, I will sit with you, ” he said. In his initial remarks and later responding to shareholders queries, he said that the rupee depreciation had been beneficial to TGB, which was now the world’s second largest tea company.
He pointed out that TGB had ceased to be just a tea company few years ago. It had emerged as an integrated beverage business with presence in branded good-for-you beverages. On the Starbucks joint venture, he said that this would cement the company’s position in the market. Elaborating on this point, TGB’s new Managing Director and CEO Harish Bhat said that the launch of the first outlet (under this joint venture) was likely in 2012. It entered into a JV with Starbucks Coffee, USA, in 2011-12 for establishing Starbucks outlets across India. TGB’s subsidiary, Tata Coffee, would source coffee to supply Tata Starbucks, and also export it globally.
He said that operations in U.S. markets had been hit due to high commodity prices. It was good in markets such as the U.K., where the Tetley brand did well. Referring to China operations, Mr Bhat said that the instant tea joint venture was expected to commence operations.
Mr Bhat said that this was a milestone year as it marked 25 years of brand Tata Tea and 175 years of the Tetley brand.