Tata Group hints at entering energy research, clinical labs

Tata Group hints at entering energy research, clinical labs

To begin with, the USD 72-billion Group is keenly looking at launching a dedicated R&D company on the alternate energy front. "Whether it is solar, whether it is wind, whether its fuel cell... it does not matter (for setting up ventures," Tata Industries Managing Director Kishore A Chaukar told PTI.

He, however, declined to give any timeframe or investment details for these two new ventures being planned by the country's top conglomerate, which already boasts of having over 98 companies under its umbrella.

Tata Industries' website lists it as a vehicle "to promote Tata's entry into new and high-tech businesses." Group Chairman Ratan Tata had hinted at developing a car that can be run on water as his new vision after delivering the world's cheapest car Nano three years ago. Tata had even invested USD 15 million in a start-up to support research.

For the clinical diagnostics business, Chaukar hinted at a very consumer-oriented model, such as a door-step service model, and putting technology to the best use to make it possible.

"Today for diagnostics, you mostly have to go to a place (where a lab is located). Can that diagnostics be made more distributed, more affordable, more easily available (and) fast...today diagnosis takes 24 or 48 hrs," he said.

Asked if it would be like a pathology lab going about in business in an organised manner, Chaukar said, "yes, and using technology." The challenges in this business, he said, will be tapping into the right technology and then scaling it up.

For the energy R&D business, Chaukar said, the new company will associate itself with either Tata Power or Tata Steel, which have similar product offerings or stand to benefit from high-tech solutions.

"It will be in association with Tata Power or even Tata Steel, whoever is interested in that. You cannot say it is independent of (them), but it will be in association with." On asked if he feels garnering the right talent to run such a business will be a difficult task, he said, "there are lots of people who are doing it now."

In a media report way back in 2008, Chaukar had been quoted as saying that the Group was interested in alternate energy, drug discovery, medical diagnostics and water purifier technologies. Tata Chemicals has since launched one of the cheaper portable water purifiers under the brand name `Swach', priced at under Rs 1,000 a piece.