As Ratan Tata’s 21-year reign at the helm as Chairman of the $100 billion-plus Tata Group ends on Friday, shareholders of several Tata group companies, who have had great fondness for the outgoing chief, brace for the leadership change.
Shareholders recount Mr. Tata’s humility and impeccable manners as unique among top corporate honchos.
“He is probably the only chairman who will stand up and call out each speaker’s, shareholder’s name when they are to address the company’s board at annual general meetings (AGMs),” said a long-time shareholder.
Ashalata Maheshwari, a septuagenarian and a shareholder in several Tata Group companies for decades, told The Hindu, that “The search for Mr. Tata’s successor went on for so long. There is a definitely a feeling of sadness because he is retiring. Mr. Tata had joined the group when he was very young and his successor, Cyrus Mistry, is himself an industrialist but he will take some time to establish himself in the hearts and minds of shareholders. Although he is very young, Mr. Mistry has been trained under Mr. Tata and I am sure he will manage very well.”
While some shareholders garlanded him and offered send-off gifts, others wished for his signature on an annual report when Mr. Tata addressed shareholders for the last time as chairman at the several Tata Group company AGMs since July 2012. At the AGM of group flagship Tata Motors in August this year, Mr. Tata exhorted shareholders to “extend the same sort of support and encouragement” given to him all these years to Mr. Mistry. “Without you, the company wouldn’t have achieved this success,” Mr. Tata said.
Mr. Tata is also known for his dry wit. At the AGM of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), in response to a shareholder’s tongue-in-cheek request that he reward them with a ‘special bonus issue’ as his parting gift, Mr. Tata promptly remarked, “It is okay. You may remember me as the stingiest chairman”.
On the insistence of some Tata Motors’ shareholders that he continue to occupy a position on the company’s board, he quipped, “I will not disappear. You will continue to see my face whether you like it or not”.
Tehemton M. Davar, an octogenarian and a long-time shareholder in several Tata Group companies, said that “because of the duration of his association with the group, Mr. Tata is irreplaceable and has been a man of utmost integrity”.
He felt that Mr. Mistry was taking over at a difficult juncture as the Tata Group today is huge. “However, there is a lot of help at hand as the senior management of all group companies is experienced. I have no doubt about the future of the group and I am confident it is in the right hands”.