That claim might be a stretch. Celebrity Net Worth reports that the industrialist’s fortune after his charitable contributions is $1 billion. However, philanthropy is a major focus for Tata and the other family members at the head of the multinational conglomerate. In fact, the Hindustan Times reports that 65 percent of Ratan's shares are invested in charitable trusts.
“[The Tata family’s] priority is not making to any lists but to actually do valuable [things] to make this world a better place to live in,” former Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti vice president Ubaidullah Ahmed wrote on Quora. “The love of [the] public for Ratan Tata and the respect they give him is sufficient to make him feel like the wealthiest, the happiest, and the most satisfied man alive.”
Ratan joined the family business in 1962.
According to his Tata Group bio, Ratan was born to Soonoo and Naval Tata in 1937. When he was 17, Ratan left to get an education at Cornell and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1962. That same year, he joined the Tata Group as a Tata Industries assistant. After completing training programs at the company’s engineering and steel plants, Ratan joined Tata Consultancy Services in 1970.
In 1974, Ratan joined the board of Tata Sons, the holding company of Tata Group. The following year, he completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. In 1981, he was appointed as the chairman of Tata Industries.
Ratan was named chairman of Tata Sons and the Tata Trusts 10 years later. In the 2000s, Ratan helped the company land a number of acquisitions, including Tetley, Corus, Jaguar Land Rover, Brunner Mond, General Chemical Industrial Products, and Daewoo, according to the bio.
Ratan stepped down from the Tata Sons chairman role in 2012, and he took on a new title—Chairman Emeritus.
Ratan and his family have donated millions in India and the U.S.
Tata’s philanthropy has made headlines many times over the years. The Tata Education and Development Trust set up the Tata Scholarship at Cornell. The scholarship gave Ratan’s alma mater a $25 million endowment to provide financial aid to undergraduates from India. In 2010, the Tata Group gave a $50 million gift to Harvard Business School, another school Ratan once attended, so that the school could construct a new executive education building.
In India, the Tata family’s philanthropy focuses on causes like child malnutrition, maternal health, and poverty, according to the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy website.
“Working on the shop floor as a young man, I saw close up the misery and hardship of the less fortunate and thought about how one makes a difference to improve lives,” Ratan said in a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review Q&A. “As I moved up through the departments and divisions, I continued to see hardship and had more opportunity to do something about it.”