An emotional Ratan Tata said little about the operations of Tata Global Beverages (TGB) on Friday, when he rose to address shareholders at the company’s AGM in Kolkata on Friday.
He didn’t have to. Shareholders, it seemed, had come to the ballroom of Hotel Oberoi Grand only to bid Tata, who will retire on December 28 when he turns 75, a very fond farewell at his last AGM as chairman of the Tata group.
The normally stoic Tata acknowledged the occasion. “I am appearing in front of you for the last time; so, let me stand this time,” he said amid loud applause as he rose to answer shareholders’ queries. He remained on his feet for the next 45 minutes answering questions.
None of them related to TGB’s performance. Every shareholder who rose to speak heaped praise on his leadership and repeated how they would miss him in future.
They also had a word of advice for him: “Please, please never join politics. Politicians have always troubled you a lot. I heard that Sonia Gandhi wanted you to be a member of Rajya Sabha, but you refused. You did the right thing,” one shareholder said.
Others wanted to be photographed with him. Tata graciously agreed. He also stood patiently as dozens of shareholders filed past shaking his hand. One even garlanded him.
The praise was well-earned. When he took over as chairman in 1995, Tata Tea (as TGB was then called) was an India-focused tea plantation company with few large brands. Over the next 17 years, he helped transform it into a brands-focused multinational beverages company with a presence in every continent except South America.
"You have given me a tremendous feeling of reward and satisfaction. We are leaving behind a healthy company for the new chairman. Cyrus Mistry will take over from me. I hope you will extend the same support to him as you have extended to me," he said.