Russi Mody, popularly known as India’s ‘Steel Man’ for his role in shaping Tata Steel as one of India’s leading steel manufacturing company that it is today, died at the age of 96 years in Kolkata on Saturday due to age-related ailments.
Mody, born on January 17, 1918, joined Tata Steel (then known as Tisco) in 1939, and rose through the ranks to become its chairman and managing director in 1984. Mody was ousted from the top job at Tata Steel in 1993 as the result of an acrimonious fallout with Ratan Tata, who had just taken over as chairman of the Tata Group.
He was then made the joint chairman of Air India and Indian Airlines by then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao. Mody, who lived alone in Kolkata, was known as much for being a hands-on and efficient man manager, as for being a gastronome.
Though Tata Steel’s top management sits out of the group’s headquarters in Bombay House at present, Mody was known for running the steel-making firm from the shopfloor of its primary manufacturing asset at Jamshedpur, then in Bihar, now in Jharkhand.
“Russi Mody’s experience of rising through the ranks from the steel mill lent him a sense of of empathy and appreciation for the welfare of the workers with always a finger on their pulse,” a Tata Steel statement issued on Saturday said. “As he loved saying: What is man management? That one must behave naturally with any human being.”
Cyrus P Mistry, group chairman of Tata Sons, said in the statement that
Mody “steered a major modernisation programme at Tata Steel” and simultaneously “widened the company’s development initiatives for local communities”, which has helped Tata Steel earn the goodwill of the local population at Jamshedpur.
In the statement, Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, called Mody an “institution” at Tata Steel. “Under his leadership Tata Steel grew significantly and he instituted many human resource initiatives,” Tata said. “He was well regarded and respected by the work force throughout his tenure. He lived a full and energetic life and will always be remembered by his friends.”
The relationship between Tata and Mody became cordial only in the last few years. Before that, when Ratan Tata took over the reins of the top job at Bombay House in 1991, Mody was one of the four satraps within the ranks of the Tata Group, who were all very powerful and successful in