Affable and somewhat understated in style, Cyrus P Mistry, the new chairman of the Tata group, is in some ways like his predecessor Ratan N Tata. But the empire that he will manage is decidedly a much bigger one with a global footprint negotiating a world economy in its most turbulent time in eight decades.
Known for a sense of self-effacing humour and a fondness for golfing greens, Mistry, 44, will need all the composure he can manage as he steers the salt-to-software conglomerate towards achieving a daunting target — multiplying the group revenues to $500 billion in 10 years — a five-fold rise.
Tata, who retired as chairman after turning on Friday after a 21-year tenure, said in farewell letter to employees: “I am sure that he (Cyrus) will receive from you the same support, the same commitment and the same understanding that I have enjoyed over the years.”
While Mistry is described as soft-spoken and quiet, those who know him say he can let his guard down after work hours and possesses a good sense of humour.
“His biggest challenge will be to preserve the legacy of the Tata brand while keeping the growth momentum that Ratan Tata initiated. His real asset is the fine quality of people that Tata employs,” said Harsh Goenka, chairman, RPG Group.
Mistry, like Ratan Tata, has remained steadfastly away from the limelight for much of his career — neither attending the in-house parties nor the outside social dos.
Adi Godrej, chairman, Godrej group, said, “I feel Cyrus will be a worthy successor to Ratan and will uphold the strong tradition of growth, globalisation and values of the Tata group.”
A civil engineering graduate from Imperial College in the UK (1990) and an MSc in management from London Business School, Mistry is also known to be a family man, who likes spending time with his wife Rohika and their two sons. While the elder one is in Class 11, the younger one studies in Class 9.
Mistry is part of the Tata family – his sister Aloo is married to Tata’s half-brother Noel — and his friends, peers and former employees described him as hardworking and patient as a manager, and not much given to grand gestures.
“While he maintains good, cordial relations with his staff, Mistry is not very demonstrative – an employee can’t just walk into his room. He is fairly hands-on, but more at the macro than the micro level,” says a management consultant, who’s known Mistry for many years.
Mistry joined the board of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co — a firm his grandfather founded – as director in 1991, the same year Tata took over as chairman of Tata Sons.
Shapoorji Pallonji Group’s association with the Tata group began in 1930s when Cyrus’s grandfather Shapoorji Mistry bought out solicitor FE Dinshaw's 12.5% stake in Tata Sons. The stake has increased to about 18.5%, making Mistry’s family the largest single shareholder in Tata Sons.
Pallonji Mistry, Cyrus’ father, is also referred to as the Phantom of Bombay House for his extremely quiet nature and manner of functioning at the iconic Tata Sons headquarters in Mumbai. He retired from the board of Tata Sons in 2006, paving the way for his younger son Cyrus to step in as director in Tata Sons.
Cyrus has been working as a deputy chairman of Tata Sons since November last year after a five-member search committee to select Tata’s successor zeroed in on Mistry from a reported shortlist of five.