India's sprawling Tata group says the successor to its chief Ratan Tata, one of the nation's most powerful businessmen, could be at the helm for up to 40 years, according to a report Saturday.
India's Tata Group announced last August it would seek a successor to replace 73-year-old Tata as head of the country's oldest and most famous conglomerate.
The ê75-billion group wants the new chairman to lead the auto-to-tea conglomerate for three to four decades, holding company Tata Sons director R. Gopalakrishnan told reporters in Mumbai, according to the Indian Express.
"The next leadership is not for five years, but he (Tata's successor) will be there for 30 to 40 years," Gopalakrishnan was quoted as saying on Friday.
The group does not want a person who comes in for just five years "takes stock options and departs to the Bahamas," he said.
In the 140 years of the group's history, Tata is only the fifth chairman, Gopalakrishnan noted.
The group had said the appointment was expected to be made by March but after that deadline passed, a member of the Tata Sons' board, R.K. Krishna Kumar, said the group would likely name a successor by the end of May.
The Economic Times daily reported the search was "down to the last lap."
The group formed a five-member panel to select a successor to run the group, which has nearly 100 companies in its fold.
The company has said the replacement would be chosen far ahead of Tata's retirement to ensure a smooth transition at the group which embraces India's biggest outsourcing company, largest vehicle maker and a leading steelmaker.
Tata is slated to step down by the end of 2012 when he turns 75.
He spearheaded the group's international drive since taking over as chairman in 1991, buying such famous names as British luxury cars Jaguar and Land Rover.
Tata also garnered headlines as the driving force behind the creation of the podlike Nano, billed as the world's cheapest "people's" car.
There has been widespread speculation over whether the top job will remain within the Tata founding family or go to an external candidate.
Tata, an architect and great-grandson of Tata founder Jamsetji Tata, has said the race is wide open, stipulating only that his successor must uphold the company's tradition of corporate responsibility.