Mumbai: Cyrus Mistry, who succeeds Ratan Tata Friday as chairman of the the $100-billion Tata Group, is low-profile and meticulous to details -- qualities which are in the perfect mould for India's largest industrial house, those in the know maintain.
A high-powered panel, which included influential British businessman Lord Sushanta Kumar Bhattacharyya who runs Warwick Manufacturing, lawyer Shirin Bharucha, and N.A. Soonawala, vice-chairman of Tata Sons, zeroed in on Mistry after an 18-month search.
On the selection of his successor, Ratan Tata had said that he was impressed by the "quality and calibre" of Mistry's participation on the Tata Sons board and praised his "astute observations and humility".
A commerce graduate from the University of Mumbai, Mistry, 44, has an engineering degree from the Imperial College, London, and a masters in management from the London School of Business.
He brings to his job over two decades of varied experience of managing businesses, ranging from construction to entertainment, to power and finance.
"Be your own man, you should take your own call and you should decide what you want to," Ratan Tata said in a recent interview when asked what he would like to advise if asked by Mistry.
"Just be driven by the fact that every act you do and every move you make has to stand the test of public scrutiny," Ratan Tata advised.
Mistry is the younger son of construction tycoon Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, who holds an 18.5 percent stake in Tata Sons, the single largest shareholder. Mistry joined the board of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co as director in 1991. Three years later, he was appointed managing director of the group.
Under his stewardship, Shapoorji Pallonji's construction business grew from a turnover of $20 million to almost $1.5 billion.
Mistry also oversaw the diversification of the company from construction to design and building of complex projects in the marine, oil and gas and rail sectors. The group employs over 23,000 people and has a strong presence in India, the Middle East and Africa.
Besides serving as a director at Tata Sons, Mistry also served Tata Elxsi and Tata Power. He is also a senior vice president of production, DQ Entertainment Plc.
He has served as a non-executive director of Forbes Gokak Ltd and was associated with Convergence Media Pvt Ltd as senior vice president, operations and planning, and UTV Toons India.
Mistry is also a trustee of the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai and is on the board of the Imperial College India Foundation. Besides, he is on the Board of Governors of the National Institute of Construction Management and Research and is a fellow of the Institute of Civil Engineers.
Known to like golf, he stays in a sea-facing house, also inhabited by his father and elder brother, in Mumbai's upscale Malabar Hill. Born into Mumbai's famous Parsi community, he is married to Rohika, daughter of legal luminary Iqbal Chagla.
He has an elder brother, Shapoor Mistry, while one of his sisters is married to Noel Tata, Ratan Tata's half-brother.
"He loves his underground profile," said Supriya Sule, member of parliament, daughter of union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and a close family friend, describing Mistry. "He has also always been very humble."
First Published: Thursday, December 27, 2012, 14:49