Being Cyrus

Cyrus P Mistry, 42, has the one quality that most Tata top shots share. Like them and the man he has succeeded, Mistry is not given to seeking public limelight. By no means a man who stays in the background, he leads from the front – but quietly and, to all appearances, unobtrusively.

The younger scion of Ireland’s richest man, Pallonji S Mistry, an Irish passport holder, (Forbes pegged his fortune at $7.6 billion, or Rs 39,999 crore), stays in what one CEO described as perhaps India’s most tastefully done home in Walkeshwar in South Mumbai with its own strip of private beach. He also spends time in his bungalow at the hill station of Khandala, close to Mumbai.

To be able to lead the Tata group Mistry had to step down as managing director of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co and as a director of BSE-listed Forbes & Co and Gokak Textiles.

For the same reason he gave up his directorships at Afcons Infrastructure, Shapoorji Pallonji Finance, Shapoorji Pallonji Infrastructure Capital and Sterling Investment, among others, passing the family baton to elder brother Shapoor.

Some of these family businesses such as Eureka Forbes, SP Real Estate, SP Infrastructure and Sterling & Wilson compete with Tata group firms as well.

Like Ratan Tata, Cyrus is a recluse by nature but will have to get used to life in the limelight that will fall indisputably on him, whether he likes it or not, as every decision of his is put under the scanner. He will also have to deal with veterans several years his senior; till date he has shown no inclination of putting together his own team.

He will have his hands full with turning around Tata Steel Europe, resolving the impasse over pricing of electricity at Mundra, finding a way to make Tata Teleservices decently profitable and turning around the hotel business swamped under bad investments and expensive overseas acquisitions. Cyrus will have will have to look at pumping up return on equity.

The board of Tata Sons chose the Imperial College of London educated engineer over the much older Sussex University educated Noel Tata, 55, to succeed Ratan Tata.

This more or less precludes Noel, though sporting the Tata family name, ever becoming the chairman; Noel will retire much before Cyrus.

The portly Cyrus is known to be a doer: he has been the chief force behind the $2.5 billion Shapoorji Pallonji group and should be at ease in the corner office of Bombay House, as he has been in the sea- facing S P Centre in South Mumbai, the headquarters of his family business.

Cyrus, who is known to be a voracious reader, is also famed for his humility and warmth towards people.

A brother of Noel’s wife Aloo, Cyrus was responsible for the entire construction business of the SP group, both in India and overseas markets such as the UAE. The group has constructed the largest mall in India and the largest cement clinker plant in Asia.

Cyrus’s father was known as the phantom of Bombay House. Will Cyrus become the force driving Bombay House as well? Only time will tell.

meghnamaiti@mydigitalfc.com

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