Ratan Tata reveals the one thing he misses most during the COVID-19-induced lockdown

Ratan Naval Tata, Chairman of the Tata Trusts, tells YourStory what the lockdown has been like for him, and the thing he misses most and would like to relive soon in a post-COVID-19 world.
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"In my business life, travel and interactions have made my business life interesting…It's not been yachts, manors, and huge estates; it's been a wonderful experience of interacting with people that stand for the same ideas as you do…that’s something I've come to miss,” Ratan Naval Tata, Chairman of the Tata Trusts, revealed in an exclusive conversation with YourStory Media Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma.

In a virtual YourStory Leadership Talk interview, which saw a record 40,000 people tune in live to listen to the conversation, Ratan Tata revealed that the thing he misses most during the lockdown, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is interacting with people.

Watch the full interaction here:

"Creating relations with people, participating in new ideas, and taking risks that have led to success in some cases,” have been the highlights of Ratan Tata's nearly five-decade-long career as an industrialist, inspiration, and influential business leader, who started out on the shop floor of Telco, now called Tata Motors.

“I would like to start to relive that type of lifestyle one has had. It's not been yachts, manors, and huge estates, it's been a wonderful experience of interacting with people that stand for the same ideas as you do, in exchanging views with them – that’s something I've come to miss.”

Virtual meetings have been able to help recreate some of that experience but “it’s still not the same,” which is why interacting with people is “the one thing that I would really look forward to doing,” Ratan Tata said.

“But by the same token, I would also look at building firewalls to make sure we don’t have to relive this terrible drama over again hopefully,” Tata said, referring to the larger role he hopes to play in building long-lasting solutions that can help the human race avoid and be better equipped to fight any other unprecedented crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ratan Tata, who heads Tata Trusts, the philanthropic trust that owns 66 percent of the group holding company Tata Sons, was among the first influential global leaders to call for a unified approach to winning the battle against COVID-19.

Calling the coronavirus pandemic one of "the worst crisis" the human race has faced, he has said, "We must fight this with a spirit of solidarity, resolve, empathy, and understanding. We must unite to win the battle against COVID-19."

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In the spirit of solidarity

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Life in the new normal

Speaking about the new normal of work from home and contactless interactions, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ratan Tata said,

“There’s a sterility that starts to seep in and a lethargy that you wish you could overcome. But everybody is dispersed; everybody is working from the house... So, there’s a certain element that I can’t describe that extracts you from the reality.”

He revealed what his own experience has been like in the lockdown, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been a strange experience. I have been quite comfortable at home. I have a little garden; my dogs have been able to run there, so they haven’t been cooped up. But (one misses) the touch and feel of being in a situation, even though it is a dangerous situation in that you could catch the virus and fall ill or even die. It has taken interest in life away. I find it difficult to decide if it’s Monday or Wednesday. Have I given someone an appointment for this week or next week?”

Ratan Tata in conversation with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma

Following the nearly hour-long live interaction on YourStory, Ratan Tata shared his experience of engaging with the youth of the country through the storytelling platform.

He wrote on Instagram,

“I have always enjoyed the company of spirited and enthusiastic youth of the country. Their energy is truly infectious, and they make me feel like I haven’t aged at all. Today’s webinar (on YourStory) with 33,000 young minds was one of the most energising conversations I have had in a while. I wish them all the very best in their own journeys and hope they contribute to making India one of the global economic powerhouses.”

In the hour-long live interaction, Ratan Tata spoke on a wide range of topics, including business ethics, creating stakeholder value versus just shareholder value, and startups, while citing his own experience in turning around businesses and innovating in times of crisis.

Edited by Dipti D and Saheli Sen Gupta