Cyrus Pallonji Mistry: Tightening belts at Tata group as more frugal era begins

Cyrus MistryCyrus Mistry. (Reuters)

Cyrus Pallonji Mistry, at the helm of India's biggest business group stood silently on the sidelines as Ratan Tata strode the halls of the Geneva Motor Show in March, joking with journalists and chatting with auto industry leaders.

Shunning the spotlight since taking charge of the $100 billion Tata group in December, 44-year-old Cyrus Pallonji Mistry has focused on belt-tightening at a conglomerate left bloated by explosive growth under his predecessor.

"Ratan was much more strategic, more over-arching. Cyrus is much more focused. The CFOs as well as the business heads are going to find it a much more rigorous exercise," a director who sits on multiple Tata company boards told Reuters.

In early February, at his first Tata Chemicals board meeting as group chairman, Cyrus Mistry sat quietly as directors debated efforts to find synergies between interests dotted around the globe, from Wyoming to Gabon. Bringing the discussion to a halt, Cyrus Mistry politely but firmly outlined that further consolidation was the only way forward.

"He summed up the decision: 'This is what we are doing'," a person present at the meeting said, "It's quite clear he believes in the process of consolidation."

FAST GROWTH

The last decade of Ratan Tata's tenure saw revenue grow ten-fold to $100 billion in the year ended March 2012, fuelled by acquisitions including an ill-timed $13 billion deal for Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus and a more successful $2.3 billion purchase of luxury car brands Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR).

The group spent billions more on overseas assets like engineering firms, luxury hotels and coffee brands. Tata Chemicals alone bought, invested in or merged with eight companies between 2004 and 2011.

Cyrus Mistry's job is to consolidate, three directors said, an effort focused on getting more from existing businesses, as opposed to shedding assets.

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