Three years ago the retirement age for Tata's holding company was upped to 75. Although Ratan Tata is only 71, there is no obvious successor to take his place at the head of India's global conglomerate, so the search has begun for the leader of the next act.

Whoever that person is will take the conductor's baton and guide an orchestra of 98 companies and 357,000 workers. He or she will also need to deal with the twin anchors of Jaguar-Land Rover debt and Corus Steel debt, both of which were brought on by economic freefall after top-of-the-market acquisitions.

At this point it looks like the CEO spot will be taken by someone outside the Tata family for only the second time in the history of the company. And while Ratan Tata has said "It would certainly be easier if [my successor] were an Indian national," he is open to filling the position with a foreigner. The company has three years to conclude, with Tata expected to step down in 2012.

[Source: Times Online | Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images]