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Tata: Master of the Gentle Approach

The Indian giant has found a way to acquire companies across the globeand still tread lightly
Tata¹s managers at the Tata Daewoo truck facility in Gunsan, South Korea
Tata¹s managers at the Tata Daewoo truck facility in Gunsan, South Korea Sungsu Cho / Atlas Press

Ravi Kant was shocked. As head of commercial vehicles at India's Tata Motors (TTM), Kant had traveled to the Korean port city of Gunsan to examine the failing Daewoo conglomerate's truck division, which was being auctioned. When Kant asked a midlevel Daewoo manager which bidder he preferred, the Korean replied that a European suitor would best secure his company's future. "I realized we had to change our entire strategy," Kant recalls, "and tell the Koreans what Tata was about."

Kant quickly put together a massive public-relations effort: Tata executives were enrolled in Korean language classes, company brochures were translated into Korean, and Tata began making presentations to employees, the local auto association chief, the mayor of Gunsan, officials in Seoul, even Korea's Prime Minister. If Tata were chosen, Kant's team explained, it would preserve jobs, build Daewoo into a major exporter, and blend the outfit seamlessly with the parent company. "Tata had done its homework in everything needed to do business here," says Chae Kwang Ok, chief executive of Tata Daewoo. The Indians won the auction, paying $102 million.