Forty-three-year-old Cyrus Mistry
took over the reins of the Tata Empire in late December last year. His first nine months have been marked by mammoth challenges as he steers the fortunes of his $100-billion salt-to-steel conglomerate, and particularly flagship brands, such as Tata Motors & Tata Steel, most affected by the protracted economic downturn.
Analysts have also raised concerns about the debt pile the Tata Group
sits on, while unease about the group’s growing reliance on one company – TCS for majority of its revenues has also hogged headlines. But amid all this disquiet, Mistry with his composed demeanor has been making significant strides on strategy and decision making structures as well as audacious inroads into new sectors.
Here’s a look at Mistry’s top 5 moves after his anointment –
The Tatas always nurtured dreams of running an airline. And after several aborted attempts they now seem to be trailblazers as far as taking benefit of the new relaxed FDI rules in the aviation space. After making a strategic investment in another airline early this year, came the announcement yesterday that the Tatas will invest $100 mn in a JV with Singapore Airlines where Tata Sons will own 51% and Singapore Airlines 49%. Prasad Menon a group veteran & former MD at Tata Power will spearhead the operations of this full-service airline.
#2. Teaming up with Air Asia for the low-cost opportunity
Earlier this year the group tied up with one of Asia’s most aggressive aviation entrepreneurs Tony Fernandes – founder of the low cost behemoth AirAsia
. The Rs. 800 million JV will see Tata Sons owning 30% in the venture that will operate out of Chennai; AirAsia controlling 49% with steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s son-in-law Arun Bhatia, owner of Telestra holding the remainder.
Mistry announced in August this year that the stuttering small car Nano, faced with plunging sales would be souped up and re-launched as a ‘smart city car’ with features such as a power steering, improved looks and available in the CNG version. Analysts have hailed the announcement as a big positive!
#4. Picking a new A-team comprising of Gen-X leaders
Barely 4 months after donning his new hat as chairman, Mistry made the big move of forming a core group called the Group Executive Council (GEC) to take strategic group level decisions. The new arrangement under the aegis of the Tata Sons board assumes the roles earlier handled by the Group Corporate Centre (GCC) and Group Executive Office (GEO). It comprises not of Tata stalwarts but a set of young leaders like N.S Rajan, Mukund Govind Rajan and Madhu Kannan – all in their 40s and 50s, reflecting that power was moving from the old guard to the younger lot.
Mistry reaffirmed this focus on nurturing a young team by announcing yesterday that TV Narendran will take over as the youngest MD of Tata Steel. Ajit Krishnakumar, Head of a new M&A Team, Harish Bhat, CEO of Tata Global Beverages and Avani Davda, CEO of Tata Starbucks are among the other young faces newly instilled.
#5. Tightening the belts
The last decade saw the Tata group go on an acquisitions overdrive, some of which were considered ill-timed given the downturn that set in, bloating the group’s debt pile and even resulting in a $1.6 bn write down of goodwill by Tata Steel . The buzz in the media now is that Mistry is on a consolidation spree and has ordered his CEOs to tighten belts, ushering in a much more frugal era for the group under his helm. Analysts, relentlessly complaining about the need to bring down debt levels would be delighted!