The tragic passing of Cyrus Pallonji Mistry in a car accident on Sunday, September 4th has stumped and shocked both his friends and foes. Those who have interacted closely with both Tata and Mistry, who was ousted as chairman of the Tata Group in October 2016, today find it rather odd that here was a man, who shared several personality traits with Ratan Tata and yet, sadly both ended up falling out with each other.
Both shared a love for technology, keen curiosity to issues, both very grounded and humble. Neither of them threw their weight around, both surrounded themselves with smart people and most of all both spent substantial part of their time at Tata Motors and were quite involved in the product development and both gave enough importance to design. During Mistry’s time when in 2014, Karl Slym, the then managing director at Tata Motors died under mysterious circumstances with some saying that it was perhaps a suicide, Mistry got actively involved and took to running the company’s steering committee and some of the leading products on the roads today like the Tata Nexon were designed during his time. Similarly, when Ratan Tata was at the helm, there were times he had to manage without some of the managing directors and became the driving force behind some of the newer models launched back then like the Tata Indica and others.
Many who have known both the men spoke on the condition that they would not be named in the article but did feel it necessary to mention what they thought of the two men. As for Cyrus Mistry in particular, what also comes across as a link node across several comments, was his approach to problems and his informal and a personable nature. For instance, the day he took charge at Tata Sons, he came without a formal attire and no jacket on and sitting in the front seat of the car with the driver next to him. He would often be seen with his sleeves rolled up and coming across as very informal and easy going.
“Cyrus was deeply committed to building on the legacy he inherited at the Tata Group. He was conscious of the giant shoes he was filling as Tata Group Chairman, and I was privileged to see at close proximity the remarkable manner in which he delivered all that one could have expected from a leader. He was compassionate, gracious, hard-working and had a tremendous intellect. His demise is a great loss for the Indian corporate sector and for the country,” says Dr Mukund Rajan, Brand Custodian and Member of the Tata Group Executive Council under Cyrus Mistry.
Those who looked at the people function at Tatas and had a chance to interact with Mistry also found him quite informal, grounded and aligned to “the Tata culture.”
“I have very fond memories of my interactions with Cyrus as he was getting onboarded into the Tata Group. Very amiable and down to earth, I remember most his ability to put people around him at ease. And yes, he even made Bombay House feel a little less formal, from dressing to conversations. “, says Prabir Jha, the former CHRO at Tata Motors and now the Founder & CEO of Prabir Jha People Advisory.
All said, everyone across the board felt this was indeed a tragic loss and a life snuffed out too soon. Or as Zia Mody, Founder and Managing Partner at AZB & Partners sums it up: “Cyrus was a good human being. God called him too early. So many will have to learn to live with this tragic loss.”