50th Anniversary: Dr Ravi Kant Q&A

50 Aston Greats - Ravi Kant

Dr Ravi Kant

Dr Ravi Kant was educated in Mayo College, Ajmer and the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur before completing an MSc in Industrial Metallurgy Management Techniques at Aston University in 1970. 

He has been the CEO and Managing Director and later the Vice Chairman of Tata Motors Ltd., South Asia’s largest  automobile manufacturing  company, and part of the TATA Group, India’s largest multinational conglomerate. He has held positions of Chairman and Director of several companies including Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Daewoo, Tata Thailand, Voltas, Tata Industries etc. He is also the Chairman of Indian Institute of Management , Rohtak, India as well as sits on the Board of CGIO, Singapore. He is on the Board of ‘Not for Profit Organisations’  viz. Enactus and WonderWork. He is also on the Board of Sesa Sterlite Ltd., India – a natural resource company and Kone, Finland, the company which manufactures elevators. 

In 2008 Aston University awarded him an Honorary DSc in recognition of his outstanding business achievements.  He is also an Honorary Industrial Professor at the University of Warwick and was awarded the BMA Management ‘Man of the Year’ award 2008-09. 

How did you first become involved with Aston University?

I was looking to do a Masters and I was looking at institutions in the UK and the US where I could do a combination of engineering and management. Many universities either did engineering or management and I was looking for a middle path. I looked at various courses offered by the universities and chanced upon the Masters in Industrial Metallurgy Management.  This was focussed and extremely appropriate for me. I wrote to Aston , received a reply and a Professor and I met at the Claridges Hotel in Delhi. It was a positive meeting and I was accepted. At Aston I had a very enjoyable experience. 

What has your experience of Aston given you personally?  

It has been great. I passed out from my Bachelor of Technology Honours in Metallurgy Engineering from IIT Kharagpur which was the first IIT [Indian Institute of Technology].  It was a very intensive five-year programme at the IIT and after that I was working at an aluminium company in India for two years before I went to do my Masters. I thought “there are thousands of engineers and I must add value to myself through doing a Masters”.  What Aston did was to help me open up my mind and make me think for myself - think about issues from a much broader perspective than in a narrow, focussed manner. Secondly [I learnt] how to use education to tackle the practical problems in industry and this was a great lesson for me, otherwise you learn something and then do not know how to apply it. The lectures, case studies and the way we were taught helped us to bridge this gap - applying your knowledge to solving practical problems. 

What do you think makes Aston special and distinctive?

Aston is a small university and therefore does not do everything, but does what it does in an excellent manner. The interdisciplinary approach that Aston has is an example to others. My own course was an example of this - Engineering and Management. Life solutions can only be found if you look at them in an interdisciplinary manner. 

We had some brilliant people at Aston like Professor Wright [Head of the MSc Course], Mr Meadows [Tutor] and Professor Alexander [Engineering]. I can’t recount all the Faculty but these three gentlemen I remember in particular. I had a good experience of working with them. Professor Alexander had written a book, Metals in the Service of Man, a small book, readable and good. All three took a great deal of interest in us, and through their teaching created a great bridge between knowledge and practical solutions. 

What is your fondest memory of Aston? 

I think the fondest memory is of the relationships I built with my co-students. It was a small, compact group of people and we enjoyed talking and working with each other and going to the cafeteria. The friendships I was able to build were great; the social part added to the whole experience.  

What advice would you give to today’s graduates?

Now things have changed and opportunities have exploded. Choose what you do, but whatever you choose, put passion and commitment behind it, as only then will you have a satisfying life and get ahead. You will get failures, but keep moving to your objective.