On the face of it, there is a lot that differentiates the incumbent from the successor — Ratan Naval Tata and Cyrus Pallonji Mistry. Tata was 54 in 1991, Mistry will be 44 in 2012-13 when he takes over the mantle at the Bombay House.
If not for the Tata group, Ratan Tata already had an offer from IBM at his disposal back in 1964, which he refused at the behest of a certain Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata.
Mistry joined the board of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co — a firm his grandfather founded — as director in 1991, the same year Tata took over as the chairman of Tata Sons.
Three years later Mistry was appointed the managing director of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group in 1994.
Tata assumed the leadership role more by circumstance, rather than choice, while Mistry, many say, grew into the role.Tata loves going out for long walks with his dogs. Mistry loves horse-riding and is an avid golfer.
Yet, Mistry is considered more of an “insider” in the Tata Group.
“I have been impressed with the quality and calibre of his participation, his astute observations and his humility,” Tata was quoted as saying in a statement on Wednesday.
“He is intelligent and qualified to take on the responsibility being offered,” Tata added.
“I’m surprised, yes, but at the end of the day he is not controversial, given his position as the largest shareholder,” said AM Naik, chairman of engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro.
Mistry, 43, is a graduate of civil engineering from Imperial College, UK (1990) and has a M.Sc. in Management from London Business School.
Shapoorji Pallonji Group’s recent foray into agriculture & bio fuels, with the leasing of 50,000 hectares in Ethiopia, was overseen by Cyrus Mistry.
Cyrus joined the Board of Tata Sons in 2006. He has been a director of Tata Power and Tata Elxsi in the past. Mistry’s grandfather first bought shares in Tata Sons in the 1930s, which currently stands at 18.5% making his father Pallonji Mistry, the largest single shareholder in a conglomerate largely controlled by trusts.
The chairman-designate, who stepped down as managing director from the Shapoorji Pallonji group to avoid conflict of interest, will be responsible for leading a group that boasts of revenues of more than $83 billion (Rs 4349.2 crore).
Mistry, like Ratan Tata, has remained steadfastly away from the limelight for much of his career — neither attending the in-house parties nor the out-house social dos, said an executive of a Tata firm, who did not wish to be identified.