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This article was first published 1 year ago  » News » 'Cyrus was always looking at trying to improve himself'

'Cyrus was always looking at trying to improve himself'

Last updated on: September 07, 2022 17:46 IST
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'He wanted to learn all the time.'

IMAGE: Then Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Pallonji Mistry, right, with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in New Delhi, January 6, 2015. Photograph: PTI Photo

Homi Khusrokhan and Cyrus Mistry's paths often crossed.

Inside boardrooms. At meetings. In the world of suits.

Mainly for work.

They never actually worked together, shoulder to shoulder.

London School of Economics-educated Mr Khusrokhan, who has spent over 40 years in the corporate sector, was, till his retirement in 2008, the managing director of Tata Chemicals Ltd and before that the MD of Tata Tea Limited and Glaxo India Limited. He still serves on several company and hospital boards (B D Petit Parsee General Hospital and the Rural Hospital Mahabaleshwar) as an independent director and is a senior advisor to Tata Capital.

The soft-spoken Mr Khusrokhan recalls, with pain, the Mistry he knew to

Mr Khusrokhan admired Cyrus Mistry's belief in aspiring to always upgrade his skills and himself, and fashion a better and better version of himself.

"Cyrus was a very sincere, wonderful individual," Mr Khusrokhan tells Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/

When Mr Cyrus Mistry was appointed chairman of the Tata group, you had spoken about what it meant, and that it was a perfect decision. It has now come a full circle sadly.
At the time you had said you had not interacted with him much. That probably changed?
What were interactions like?

I've never worked with him because I retired probably just before he became chairman. But I knew him as a person -- as a very sincere, simple and humble person and a lovely individual.

It's very depressing to see that his life has ended so soon. I feel sick in the pit of my stomach when I think about that awful accident (on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway at the Surya river near Chiroti village in Palghar on September 4, 2022).

Knowing all the others in the car makes it even worse. Anahita (Dr Anahita Pandole) delivered my grand-child, my daughter's daughter, and I have known Darius's parents for many years.

Where did you meet Mr Mistry? In social circles or at work?

At work. We did sort of interact, because even after I retired, I was coming in for Tata Business Excellence Group meetings, etc. I would meet him at Business Excellence annual conventions.

I liked him and he wanted to learn all the time. He was a tremendous, voracious, reader. He said he could never pass a bookshop without picking up 10 books at a time.

Cyrus was always looking at trying to improve himself. He was very humble about it -- a very sincere, wonderful individual.

What kind of books did he like to read?

Management books and (books on) the things he used to talk about.

It was said he was a good-humoured person.

Yes, he had a lovely nature.

One also heard that he was reclusive, introverted but also a charming person?

That's right. Yes, very charming.

I understand you are still serving on different boards, is that correct?

But not on the Tata boards. We step down when we reach a certain age. At 65, or something, I had to step down from all executive positions and board positions.

So, I didn't have a chance to work with him at any company or on any board. I only met him at the group events and these annual meetings as I continued to be a mentor in the Tata Business Excellence process even after I retired.

IMAGE: Homi Khusrokhan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Homi Khusrokhan

When were you introduced to him?

(Laughs at the recollection) The first time I met him was in a meeting at Tata Steel (at Bombay House). I think some foreign delegation had come and he was sitting next to me.

I said, 'I am Homi'.

He said 'I am Cyrus'.

(Laughing further) I said, 'Cyrus, where do you work?'

He said 'I am on the board of Tata Sons'.

I said, 'Oh sorry, you are that Cyrus!'

He was a very simple person. Never threw his weight around or made me feel uncomfortable about my colossal gaffe.

How many years ago was that?

Oh, my god, 20 years ago, I suppose. I retired in 2008. Many, many, years ago.

It will be a big loss for the Shapoorji Pallonji Group. The whole business rests now on one person's shoulders, Cyrus's elder brother Shapoor Mistry.

Huge loss to the family and this large dynamic company. He (Cyrus) would have had a lot to do.

I did spend time with him, once, speaking about my father, Rustam Khusrokhan, who was the legal adviser to Pallonji Mistry after he retired and we exchanged some anecdotes about his family members, including his grandfather.

He was quite different from other business leaders. Isn't that true?

I don't know, there are leaders and leaders. Obviously, his style of leadership was different from the average dominant leader.

He was more a people person, and he worked with individuals, and did not 'sit on top' of them.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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