With the ouster of Cyrus S Mistry as the chairman of Tata Sons, speculations have been rife on who will head the salt-to-software conglomerate. The name of Noel Naval Tata, brother-in-law of Tata group Chairman Cyrus Mistry
and half-brother of Ratan Tata, has been doing rounds for the top post.
Noel is the Chairman of Trent, the retail arm of the group, having served as its Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director until August 12, 2010. He succeeded FK Kavarana who retired from the Tata group companies
after attaining the age of 70.
During his 12 years in Trent, Noel pioneered the launched of the first private label in India. He also made Trent
a profitable retailer and tied up with Tesco and despite volatile business environment, did not close down a single outlet.
He was instrumental in getting British retail giant Tesco as a joint venture partner to invest in the Indian retail sector. The JV plans to invest Rs 680 crore in multi-brand retail stores in the country - the first JV after the Indian government opened up the sector for foreign direct investment in September 2012.
Noel was earlier widely speculated to take over as the chairman of the Tata group from Ratan Tata.
Like Tata and Mistry, Noel also prefers to keep a low profile and is rarely seen in public.
Noel, who built Trent
into a Rs 1,000-crore company, launched a slew of brands in India such as Sisley and Zara.
He had launched the Zara brand in India through a JV with Spain's Inditex group and followed this with another JV with the Inditex group, for Massimo Dutti stores. He was also instrumental in signing a franchisee agreement with UK's Tesco to provide back-end support for Trent's Star Bazaar stores.
Trent's venture with Italy's Benetton Group to run Sisley stores in India, however, didn't see much success. After Tata took charge of Tata International, he ventured into footwear retail, under the 'Tashi' brand. In late 2010, Tata International acquired 76 per cent stake each in Bachi Shoes India and Euro Shoe Components. In 2011, the company acquired a 51 per cent stake in Portugal's Move-on shoes.
But Tata International had to scale down its footwear retailing venture, as most of the stores were rendered commercially unviable.
Noel is a graduate from Sussex and an MBA from Insead.