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'A simple guy despite being a billionaire'

Last updated on: September 05, 2022 12:06 IST
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'Cyrus Mistry was the most thoughtful corporate person I encountered.'

IMAGE: Cyrus Mistry, who died tragically in a road accident two months after his 54th birthday. Photograph: PTI Photo

Former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry died in a road accident at Palghar , Maharashtra, on Sunday, September 4, 2022.

Cyrus was in the backseat of the Mercedes SUV with his old friend Jehangir Pandole, director, Global Strategy Group at KPMG's London office. Jehangir too died in the accident.

In the front seat of the car were Darius Pandole, Jehangir's elder brother and managing director and CEO of JM Financial Private Equity, and his wife Dr Anahita Pandole who was driving the car. They survived the crash, but are in critical condition.

Nirmalya Kumar worked closely with Cyrus Mistry when he headed Tata Sons. Kumar is currently Professor of Marketing at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at the Singapore Management University.

"Humble, classy, high integrity, smart, funny, and very charming... He inspired his managers to work harder for him," Nirmalya Kumar tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/

Can you tell us how your association with Cyrus Mistry began?

Out of the blue a head hunter called me that Cyrus Mistry would like to hire me as the head of strategy for the Tata group.

It was based on what he wanted in a strategy head (academic, able to work in different industries, analytical), not on personal connection as I had never met him before.

What kind of business leader was he?

He was the most thoughtful corporate person I encountered.

He spent time deeply studying each business to understand what makes this industry tick, what is the position of the Tata firm in it -- strengths and weaknesses.

Only then did he give his opinion and recommendations.

He was an amazing listener. He inspired his managers to work harder for him.

Can you tell us his endearing qualities as a business person?

Thoughtful, financially literate and dedicated.

IMAGE: Nirmalya Kumar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nirmalya Kumar@ProfKumar/

His endearing qualities as human being?

Humble, classy, high integrity, smart, funny, and very charming. But in the end a simple guy despite being a billionaire.

When we visited Zurich for a business trip, he asked me if we had time to visit the hot dog stand outside the main train station! Then he proceeded to thoroughly enjoy it.

He was known to be reclusive in a time of exploding social media. Why? Did he not feel as a business leader he had to be out there and speak out?

It was his personality -- no ego, shy, focused on the task not on building his brand at the cost of the company.

Was Mr Mistry in touch with you during the tumultuous post Tata Sons days? What was his mindspace like then?

Yes, we worked very closely together in formulating the response to his firing.

He was the usual focussed steely self -- his aim was identical to before -- not about him or his position at Tata, but about making the institution of Tata future proof.

It must have taken enormous inner strength to overcome the professional setback. How did he do it?

He relied on his personal willpower backed by his family and friends.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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