Industrialist Ratan Tata, who heads a conglomerate comprising nearly 100 companies, on Wednesday, said that his successor would be in place by the middle of the year and his step-brother was one of the contenders.

“...I hope that by the first half of this year, we'll be able to define a suitable candidate with whom one can overlap for a short period of time before I move on,” Ratan Tata said in an interview to CNN International's ‘Talk Asia' programme.

The 73-year-old Tata is scheduled to retire as Tata group chief in December 2012, when he turns 75, and a search panel was formed in August last year to find his successor.

Asked what were the chances of his successor not having Tata as the last name, the industrialist said that he would not like to comment on that.

“.. my step-brother is one of the candidates that is being considered and I don't think it's my lot to, to say whether it's fifty per cent, or ninety per cent or ten percent so...,” he added.

He was referring to 53-year old Noel Tata, Ratan Tata's half-brother and a senior group executive. Mr. Noel Tata is chairman of the group's retail arm Trent and also managing director of Tata International, a trading company.

Mr. Ratan Tata, who has been heading the group as Chairman of its promoter company Tata Sons since 1991 and had joined the group in 1962, said that it had been an exciting time for him.

Asked about who would succeed him, he said: “There is a committee that's been established; that committee is mandated with looking at internal candidates, external candidates, Indian expatriates; they have a short list of people who they're examining today and who they are meeting.

“I've stayed away from that committee because I think that committee should operate independently without the force of someone who is looking over their shoulder and I hope that by the first half of this year, we'll be able to define a suitable candidate with who one can overlap for a short period of time before I move away,” he added.

Asked whether the finalisation of his successor could cause a family strife, Mr. Ratan Tata said: “No, I don't think it, it may. I have no way to know.”

Talking about the legacy he wanted to leave behind, he said: “I think what I would like to do is to leave behind a sustainable entity of a set of companies that operate in an exemplary manner in terms of ethics, values and continue what our ancestors left behind.

“Not my legacy alone but a continuation of the legacy that extends over the last over a hundred years.

“I hope my successor will be as committed to that as I have tried to be,” he added.

More In: Business | National | News