India tycoon denies attack on 'lazy' UK staff
Indian tycoon Ratan Tata has denied calling his British staff lazy after a London newspaper quoted him attacking them for heading home early on Friday afternoons.
The Tata Group issued a statement after the Times published an interview in which he described how "nobody is willing to go the extra mile" at Jaguar Land Rover or Corus, two British firms which he bought in 2008 and 2006.
"Friday, from 3.30 pm, you can't find anybody in their office," he told the Times.
The Tata Group, a massive international conglomerate, said Ratan Tata had stressed that he was talking about management practices before he took over.
"Mr Tata has always been proud of what these companies' present management teams have been able to do following their acquisition by Tata," the statement issued late on Saturday said.
"The Times... seeks to present these comments as being about company managers today, even though Mr Tata makes clear in the interview that new management at Corus and Jaguar Land Rover has eliminated those practices."
It said the article "fundamentally misrepresents" Ratan Tata, adding he never used the word "lazy" during the recorded interview, which took place two months ago.
Tata said on Friday it would axe up to 1,500 jobs at two steel-making sites in northeastern England, blaming weak demand for its products.
The Times interview made front-page news in India, with newspapers relishing the comparison between work ethics in Britain and in India, where Ratan Tata said managers stay in the office until midnight if necessary.
Local media also focused on his criticism of a 27-storey luxury house that his fellow tycoon Mukesh Ambani has built in Mumbai, where millions of people live in slums or on the street.
"It makes me wonder why someone would do that. That's what revolutions are made of," he said. "The person who lives in there should be concerned about what he sees around him and (asking) can he make a difference."
Mumbai-born Ratan Tata, 73, who is widely admired for being one of India's most powerful industrialists, shuns the social limelight, preferring a quiet life with his pet dogs in a book-filled flat in the city.
He has propelled the group's global expansion, but is slated to retire in December 2012 when he turns 75. His successor has not yet been decided.
© 2011 AFP