Be your own man: Tata to Mistry
14 December 2012
press trust of india
MUMBAI, 14 DEC: Be your own man, Mr Ratan Tata has advised Mr Cyrus Mistry, who will succeed him at the helm of the $100-billion Tata Group in two weeks from now.
“I don't think it is right to have a ghost to shadow over somebody,” says Mr Tata, dismissing any notion that his larger-than-life persona would linger even after he retires on 28 December when he turns 75.
The Tata patriarch has told Mr Mistry, 31 years younger, “you should be your own person, you should take your own call and you should decide what you want to”.
Mr Tata spoke about his 50 years with the group, 21 as its chairman, the highs and lows of his tenure, his equation with Mr Mistry and his post-retirement plans during an expansive interview to PTI in his office at Bombay House, the group headquarters.
Mr Mistry, currently deputy chairman of the conglomerate that spans automobiles, IT, hotels, tea and steel across 80 countries, has been working closely with Mr Tata to prepare for the transition.
Have you passed on a success mantra to Mr Mistry?, the outgoing chairman was asked.
“No, I told him the same things that I told myself when JRD (late JRD Tata) handed over the mantle to me. The first reaction of anybody is to be Mr JRD Tata because you are filling his shoes. I instantly told myself, I can never do that. I will never be him much as I try to imitate him. So I took a decision to be myself and to do what I thought was the right thing. I told Cyrus the same thing,” he said.
During the transition, Mr Mistry had asked him from time to time, 'is this ok, that ok'. He had responded by telling him that he should look at things as “if I were not there because you should be your own person”.
He had told Mr Mistry, “if you want my inputs I will give it to you but be your own man and be yourself and just be driven by the fact that every act you do and every move you make has to stand the test of public scrutiny”.
That, he said, was the test he had given himself. “If it stands the test of public scrutiny, do it....if it doesn't stand the test of public scrutiny then don't do it.”
Asked if his counsel would be available to his successor, Mr Tata replied, “Yes, certainly. He knows where to reach me and, we in fact, would talk business and stay in touch after I leave.”
He then disclosed that the two of them would have lunch every couple of weeks “over something and we will talk about whatever he wants to talk about”. Mr Tata, who will remain chairman of various Tata trusts, which hold 66 per cent shares of Tata Sons, was asked whether this would not give him a large influence over the group.
He replied, “I don't want to say I will have a large influence over the group. I think I would have to wear a different hat of being the major shareholder. The same kind of view that a shareholder might have, not a chairman's view of the company. "
“I should not be involved in the business of the company or how the company goes about its growth. But at the same time, I should be concerned about the return I get on my shares because it is the only income that the trusts have.”
The dividend from Tata Sons is to be distributed for charity by the trusts. “So I should protect that,” he said.
Looking ahead to the future of the group, Mr Tata said that he personally believed that it was poised to continue to grow.
“Where it would grow, I think Mr Cyrus Mistry should have his space and define where he would like it to grow,” he said.