Culture, family triumph in Tata quest for successor

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Tata Sons, the holding company for an empire spanning cars, steel, and hotels, on Wednesday named Cyrus Mistry, 43, to be its next chairman. Tata Sons, the holding company for an empire spanning cars, steel, and hotels, on Wednesday named Cyrus Mistry, 43, to be its next chairman.
SummaryCulture and continuity have prevailed in the Tata Group's search for a new chairman.

Culture and continuity have prevailed in the Tata Group's search for a new chairman to head India's biggest business house.

In hindsight, the sprawling conglomerate's flirtation with bringing in an outsider appears to have been only that.

It is better to have somebody that the house knows, rather than somebody from the outside, because that will be a blind bet, said J.J. Irani, a Tata Group veteran and former managing director of Tata Steel.

Despite a worldwide search for a successor to Ratan Tata that lasted more than a year and held India Inc in thrall, Tata Sons, the holding company for an empire spanning cars, steel, and hotels, on Wednesday named Cyrus Mistry, 43, to be its next chairman.

The selection of low-profile Mistry, a member of the Tata family by marriage whose father is the largest single holder of shares in the Tata Sons holding company, caught many by surprise.

The prospect of an outsider -- PepsiCo Inc Chief Executive Indra Nooyi and former Vodafone Group Plc boss Arun Sarin were said to have been in the mix at some point -- had tantalised watchers of the group's Bombay House headquarters, yet Mistry was seen as a safe choice.

Gita Piramal, a business historian who has written extensively on the Tata group, said there was no need to bring in an outsider to shake things up.

I won't say they wouldn't have fit in, but it's a period of extreme volatility, and the group is going strong. An insider makes sense, Piramal said.

Jagannadham Thunuguntla, head of research at SMC Global Securities, said Mistry faces more challenges than opportunities.

Tata Group is extremely diversified, they have cross-border issues, acquisition financing to be taken care of (and) he has to deal with a lot of integration issues, Thunuguntla said.

FAMILY FIRST

Under Ratan Tata's leadership over 20 years, Tata sales have grown from $5 billion to $83 billion, and almost two thirds of its revenue now comes from overseas.

But this is a country where family-run companies account for two-thirds of listed companies worth over $50 million, the highest share in Asia, according to a Credit Suisse report, and

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