Cyrus Pallonji Mistry’s sudden removal in less than four years as the Chairman of Tata Sons has set the industry wondering who would replace him to take the helm at the prestigious group.
Ratan Tata, who will steer the group as Interim Chairman till a candidate is selected, is expected to choose an experienced hand to steer the $100-billion business empire.
78-year old Tata said a selection panel, which includes him, Ronen Sen, Venu Srinivasan, Amit Chandra, will find a suitable successor to Cyrus Mistry within a span of four months.
In 1991, JRD Tata handed the baton of one of the world’s largest conglomerates to Ratan Tata. Cyrus Mistry, upon his appointment in 2012, became the first Tata boss from outside the family.
Doubts over whether a non-Parsi ever head the Tata clan imbibed with core Parsi values were voiced by many. Mistry’s sudden ouster only proved the speculators right. Will this time see someone from the family take back the helm or will it a competent international face?
We list three top contenders whose names are doing the rounds for Tata Group's top post.
Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi – PepsiCo
Indra Nooyi, an India-born American is the current Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, the second largest food and beverage business in the world by net revenue.
Nooyi is seen someone who could steer one of the biggest businesses in India. Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994 and went on to became PepsiCo's first female CEO, as well as its first CEO not born in the US in 2006.
Nooyi, though an outsider, could make a great fit to the Tata clan keeping her vibrant tenure at PepsiCo in mind. She is a go-getter and has worked for one of the biggest companies in the world tirelessly. Nooyi is also said to be one with deep seated Indian values with an international touch and would compliment the business's diversity and cosmopolitan culture.
Noel Tata – MD, Tata International
Noel Tata, son of Naval Tata and Simone Tata and Ratan Tata’s half brother, steers the helm at Trent Ltd and is also the chairman of Tata Investment Corporation. Noel is the son-in-law of Pallonji Mistry, the single-largest shareholder in Tata Sons outside the Tata Trusts.
At the time of Cyrus Mistry’s appointment, Ratan Tata had suggested Noel Tata was not ready for the role. “I think if he is to run this, he should have greater exposure than he has had. Partly his not having it has been his own choice,” Tata said then.
In the past, Noel has often been compared with Ratan Tata in his demeanor and personality by many. Seen as approachable but shy within the Group and outside it, Noel is perceived as a stable performer.
Noel, called the prince who could not be crowned, could bring the lost empire back to the Tatas. His calm and shy demeanour and Parsi values may bring the Zoroastrian priestly family flavour back to the group.
Natarajan Chandrasekaran – CEO, Tata Consultancy Services
N Chandrasekaran is the CEO and managing director of 2009 prior to which he was COO and Executive Director of TCS. Counted among the youngest CEOs of the Tata Group, Chandra has shown his mettle since a difficult period in the IT outsourcing industry of 2009.
Under Chandra, TCS has met its growth targets and fiercely fought the global financial crisis, which followed his appointment.
Mistry, who served the shortest period as Chairman of Tata Sons was appointed four years ago in December 2012. His removal came as a complete surprise and no real reason was revealed by Tata.
N Chandrasekaran could make a good fit since he is often considered the warrior of the bad times. Chandrasekaran steered TCS at a time when the world economy battled a tough enviornment for the IT sector. Rocky terrain is a no-fear zone for Chandrasekaran and he may be able to bring the Tata Group back on the growth trajectory seamlessly.
Tata in his first meeting with Group CEOs after returning to the helm said he was available as the Chairman for a short period and hence everyone should focus on the businesses than on change.