The man who would be king smiled a lot and said very little. But it was clear as day on Wednesday that Noel N. Tata will have to spend the next few months under media limelight amid the cloying affections of supporters who want him crowned as the next chairman of the Tata business empire.
Vocal support emerged for the 53-year-old half-brother of incumbent chairman Ratan Tata at a shareholder meeting of retailer Trent Ltd, but all he did was sustain a smile, showing interest but revealing little when faced with a volley of questions. "No interviews," he said.
Ratan Tata said last week that the Tata group was Indian and "not Parsi" as he threw open a meritocratic process to pick his successor. However, all of Trent's six board members belong to the community.
On the eve of the Parsi New Year, several shareholders wished Noel Tata success in his future endeavours as he stepped down as managing director to move to Tata International in what is perceived as a prelude to chairmanship of Tata Sons, the group holding company.
One shareholder—a Parsi—was quite vocal.
"The chairman should be a Parsi and a Tata and we look forward to see Noel Tata as the chairman of Tata Sons," he said.
Shareholders missed the presence of Noel's mother--Simone Tata—while Noel was accompanied by his son and daughter at the AGM.