Russi Mody, the man ousted as the chairman and managing director of Tata Steel Ltd in 1993, now says he has made peace – and friendship – with Ratan Tata, the man who led the Tata group purge that led to Mody’s unceremonious dethroning as the head of the country’s biggest private steelmaker.
Mody, who turned 90 last month, gives his side of one of corporate India’s biggest boardroom battles in a biography set to be released next Thursday at Kolkata, where he now lives a lavish and colourful, whimsical life he was always famous for – and one that was at the heart of his ouster.
The biography, written by Partha Mukherjee and Jyoti Sabharwal and published by Stellar Publishers, covers at length the conflict between the dapper but simple living group chairman Ratan and Russi, who ran Tata Steel under JRD Tata’s group stewardship.
The book, through interviews with Mody and others, reveals how JRD shifted from an admirer of Russi to one who had to bear the pains of ejecting the man who stood his ground much to the embarrassment and annoyance of Bombay House.
“It could have been handled more gracefully on both the sides,” Mody, says of the conflict that grabbed headlines between 1991 and 1993, when the first years of the country’s economic reforms coincided with a firm but systematic pushing out of the man who ran the Tatas’ steel empire from Jamshedpur for 53 years.
“There was a time when I did and said things that had hurt Ratan Tata and Ratan had said and one things that hurt me. However, after many years of chilly relationship, I have become friends with Ratan again,” Mody says. “Ratan is friendly with me now as he was earlier. This again means that I have completely forgotten the past.”
The book reveals the two met last August at the Taj Bengal in Kolkata under public gaze, though they have met privately twice in the period that followed a cold three years when they hardly saw eye to eye. “I can cope with the mistakes because I am never afraid to change once I realize my mistake,” the book quotes Mody as saying.
The biography chronicles the episode that put the Tata scion who ultimately replaced JRD as chairman and the colourful Mody in conflict – the appointment of adopted son Aditya Kashyap as joint managing director (and heir apparent) in Tata Steel by Mody, who insists that he was acting solely on merit to promote the man widely seen as his blue-eyed boy. Kashyap, who left Tata Steel with Mody, died of cancer in 2006.