Tata's 'choice' preserves Parsi tradition

Nov 26 2011, 15:40 IST
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 Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata's successor Cyrus Mistry outside the Bombay House in Mumbai. (PTI) Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata's successor Cyrus Mistry outside the Bombay House in Mumbai. (PTI)
SummaryRise of Mistry to helm of Tata reinforces clout Parsis wield in some of biggest conglomerates.

The days when Mumbai's Parsi community dominated a city they helped to build may have faded, but the rise of Cyrus Mistry to the helm of the Tata Group reinforces the clout it wields in some of India's biggest conglomerates.

Mistry's selection as chairman-designate of India's biggest corporate house keeps the group close to the founding Tata family as he is a member through the marriage of his sister. The choice also keeps the business in the hands of the close-knit community which is as old as the city itself.

From shipyards to textile firms, Mumbai's Parsis, descendants of Persians who first landed in India in the ninth century, led the city's commercial development from sleepy fishing islands to one of Asia's business capitals.

Big business houses led by the Tata, Godrej and Wadia families keep that tradition alive today.

"Tata is a Parsi business, and so it is important that someone who grasps the culture of the group is at the top," said Zubin Karkaria, a Parsi and chief executive officer and managing director of international visa administration firm VFS Global.

Bombay House, the brick colonial building in the heart of south Mumbai where Mistry, 43, will take the reins of the $83 billion Tata empire next December, is the seat of power for a community Parsis say is inseparable from the city's history.

Mistry is the youngest son of construction magnate Pallonji Mistry, known as "the world's richest Parsi" with estimated wealth of $8.8 billion, according to Forbes.

Octogenarian Pallonji and the 73-year-old Ratan Tata are stalwarts of business groups that date back more than 140 years, carrying on a legacy of more than 300 years of Parsi-led industrial development in India's commercial capital.

Other Parsi industrialits such as Adi Godrej, head of the consumer goods and real estate-focused Godrej Group, and textile and property baron Nusli Wadia, ensure their business influence far outstrips their dwindling numbers.

"Parsis really were the pioneers of the Indian industrial movement and have put a lot into the industrial development of the country," said Shernaaz Engineer, editor of Jam-e-Jamshed, the 179-year-old Parsi newspaper.

Nariman Point, which is losing its stature as the city's prime business district, is named after the Parsi who built it, while many of Mumbai's hospitals and colleges bear the names of Parsi merchants who forged the city's development as a trade hub in the 19th century.


The Parsis settled in Mumbai in the 1640s when the

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