Insults usually weigh us down and make us doubt ourselves. But sometimes, they serve a higher purpose by providing the motivation for us to prove ourselves to the world. You may not believe this but the world of luxury goods and services includes a number of icons who turned their moments of humiliation into multi-million dollar enterprises through hard work, determination and the will to silence their doubters. You probably already know about how Walt Disney was fired by an editor because he supposedly didn’t have imagination or creative ideas, today his enterprise, The Walt Disney Company rakes up an average revenue of $30 billion annually. What you probably didn’t know was that Indian billionaire Ratan Tata’s buyout of Ford’s Jaguar was prompted by a massive insult nearly a decade earlier, and Enzo Ferrari may have sown the seeds for his company’s biggest competition with an ungracious comment. Intrigued? Read on to know the offhand insults that created the foundations for some mega-successful companies.
3. Ratan Tata’s Buyout of Ford’s Jaguar-Land Rover division
Way back in 1998, Ratan Tata’s company made their foray into the passenger car business with the launch of the Tata Indica. However, it was an ill-timed move and Tata’s passenger car venture seemed to be doomed to failure. Eventually Tata decided to sell the business and Ford officials voiced their interest after a trip to Tata’s Bombay HQ. But when Tata and his associates visited Detroit to hash out a deal, they were in for a rude awakening. Bill Ford, the chairman at Ford supposedly told Tata that he was quite out of his depth. A Tata Group employee – Pravin Kadle- who was present at the 1999 meeting told the Economic Times, “They told us ‘you do not know anything, why did you start the passenger car division at all’. They said they will do us a favor by buying our car division.”
The Tata Motors team returned to New York the same night, with Ratan Tata in an especially quiet mood on the flight back. However, despite initial failures the company’s luck soon turned with the launch of the new and improved Indica V2, and the passenger car business took off. Meanwhile, there was trouble in Ford’s paradise. The car company was crippled by the financial crisis of 2008 and nearly driven to bankruptcy. The Jaguar-Land Rover division was on the chopping block and Ratan Tata purchased it for something like US$2.3 billion prompting Bill Ford to eat his words. Kadle recalled the incident in a speech at a ceremony where he accepted the YB Chavan National Award 2014 on behalf of Ratan Tata. “Ford chairman Bill Ford thanked Tata, saying ‘you are doing us a big favor by buying JLR,’” he said.
Since the takeover, the Land Rover and Jaguar brands have thrived under their new leadership. Investing in new models has paid off handsomely for Tata motors with sales having shot up (reportedly by a whopping 100,000 cars) and JLR having become self-financing. 9,000 new jobs were created at the British supply plants with several thousand more in the works at locations in China and the Middle East.
2. Jamsetji Tata’s Taj Mahal Hotel Sign
Another Tata who made it to our list is Ratan’s great grandfather Jamsetji Tata. As the story goes, Jamsetji was on a trip to London when he tried to check into a luxury hotel (the family was quite wealthy even at that time). Supposedly he was denied service at the establishment because he was a native. The allegedly hotel had a sign out front proclaiming that entry was forbidden to dogs and Indians. Now there is some confusion about which hotel it really was Dr. Sat D. Sharma writes in India Marching: Reflections from a Nationalistic Perspective that it was the Apollo Hotel and that Jamsetji’s white friend was welcomed there. The Guardian’s Suketu Mehta believes that it was actually Mumbai’s once famous Watson’s Hotel (known today as Esplanande Mansion).
Angry and humiliated, Jamsetji Tata decided to build a luxury hotel of his own and so Mumbai’s prestigious Taj Mahal Hotel was born. Some have even written that Jamsetji retaliated by posting a sign outside his own hotel that refused entry to Dogs and the British.
The authenticity of this story is difficult to ascertain, many have dismissed the whole thing as an urban legend. Others claim that Tata’s experience of racism definitely pushed him to build the hotel, but he certainly never refused entry to anyone at his luxurious hotel. Perhaps the story should be taken with a grain of salt as we can’t separate fact from fiction so many years later, but the spirit of the tale is certainly worth holding on to. Jamsetji Tata’s hotel today a historic and iconic symbol of the city of Mumbai. Today, Taj has a global presence with properties in the USA, UK, UAE, South Africa, Maldives, Malaysia and other destinations besides their numerous hotels in India.
How’s that for a comeback?
1. The Birth of Lamborghini
It may be hard to believe, but this luxury sports car company had some truly humble beginnings. Long before Lamborghini was anything more than an Italian farmer’s last name, Ferrari was already building fast and glamorous race cars. Ferrucio Lamborghini was born to a family grape farmers and later pursued his interest in cars to a job with the Air Force mechanics corps where he learned plenty about automobile engines. Once the war was over he set up a motorcycle and car repair business in Northern Italy. Soon, he started buying surplus military machinery and converting them into tractors. Agricultural supplies were in demand and Lamborghini’s business took off allowing his to expand it considerably. Now a wealthy man, Lamborghini owned several sports cars and one of them was a Ferrari 250 GT. However, Ferrucio was constantly irked by the poor clutch of this expensive car and tired of having to travel to Maranello to have it constantly replaced. He pursued his complaint to the point of meeting Enzo Ferrari – the founder of Ferrari. Here is where the story differs. Some say that Enzo never really respected any of his customers and dismissed Ferrucio’s complaint but without any particular. Others argue that it was Lamborghini’s agricultural background that offended Ferrari who couldn’t accept the idea that the tractor manufacturer knew more about cars than him. A third version of the story suggests that Ferrari simply didn’t see the problem with his car and insisted that the problem was in Ferrucio rather than in the 250 GT. In every version of the story, Lamborghini was affronted, and decided to create a superior product that addressed all the flaws that Enzo Ferrari wouldn’t acknowledge.
He started his own automobile factory and actually employed some former Ferrari designers to boot! He even saved money by incorporating some tractor parts into his Lamborghini 350GTV cars. Later in 1966 came the Miura which really put Lamborghini on the map thanks to its rear-wheel-drive layout which became the accepted layout for high-performance cars at the time.
As with every story, we can’t say how much is fact and how much is embellishment, but the Ferrucio Lamborghini’s determination is a life lesson to everyone. It’s also commendable that he was dedicated to creating a superior car even when established manufacturers of the time couldn’t be bothered. A competition with Ferrari spanning decades is just the icing on the cake for the tractor manufacturer.
Now that you’re done reading, it’s time to start thinking about how to turn your own humiliating moments into successes.
– Luxury Launches