MIT is Ratan Tata’s “happy place”

In retirement, the legendary industrialist is working harder than ever to make a difference for India’s poor, writes the Economic Times

Ratan Tata

“77-year-old Ratan Tata is on a furious mission” to “help the underdog — be it the young entrepreneur or India’s poor,” according to a story in today’s Economic Times.

Since stepping down as chairman of the Tata Group in 2012, Mr. Tata has turned his attention to philanthropy and investing in young entrepreneurs “who have a big vision that can solve a big problem.” This includes active support of the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design, part of the MIT Energy Initiative.

“His ‘happy space’ meetings fall into three categories — working with MIT students, entrepreneurs, and the Tata Trusts.”

The Economic Times goes on to explore the genesis of not only the MIT Tata Center, but its sister-centre at IIT-Bombay, one of India’s leading universities, and explain how these projects reflect Mr. Tata’s passions.

“After his retirement, Tata began to spend a lot of time in the US, specifically at MIT. Ratan Tata has long been interested in low-cost innovation, something he believed was necessary to change the world. He has now pushed even harder at innovating for the poor, and found a good partner at MIT.

“The topics of research at the MIT Tata Center reflects Ratan Tata’s key interests: [health and] nutrition, low-cost housing, sustainable energy and waste management, clean water.

“Tata spends substantial time there, mentoring students on disruptive innovation. To boot, he is also trying to bring in a MIT-like innovative culture to IIT-Bombay.

“Tata had started the MIT center first, but was convinced it needed a partner in India. He approached IIT-B to open a sister centre, which would work with MIT and solve problems of Indian society. Students work in areas like energy, water, education, housing, and healthcare.

“‘We at Tata Centre focus on exposing students to the problems of society,’ says Sanjay Mahajani, IIT-B professor in charge of the Centre. ‘Mr. Tata believes technology can play a crucial role in solving people’s problems.'”

In August the MIT and IIT-B Tata Centers will hold a joint orientation for new Fellows in Mumbai, and launch their first collaborative project.

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