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Deep in the heart of Jharkhand, a mineral-rich yet poor, tribal new state in eastern India, lies a jewel: the township of Jamshedpur. A big portion of its 650,000 population is employed by Tata Steel, and it is one of the cleanest and most orderly towns in India. Citizens can even drink the tap water. Tata Steel Chief Executive B. Muthuraman points with pride to the progress of Jamshedpur and its surrounding regions, and credits the company's concern with community development. ``The purpose of an industrial organization is to improve society,'' he says. ``Judge us on that basis.''
Colleagues in the steel business judge Tata Steel on another basis -- as one of the best-run steel companies in Asia, with profits of $820 million last year. Of course, high steel prices have helped, but Tata Steel has a lot more going for it. It's among the lowest-cost producers in the world, thanks to the fact that Tata gets its iron ore from mines it owns in Jharkhand and efficiently turns it into steel using cutting-edge technology.
For now, the company is primarily a domestic steelmaker, but Muthuraman has global designs. Last year, Tata acquired Singapore's NatSteel, which has operations in China, and it's planning to fire up a steel plant in Bangladesh. ``By 2015, we want to be among the top five steel companies in the world,'' says Muthuraman -- while adhering to the exacting corporate code of conduct that Tata Steel considers its most important asset.