Shapoor Mistry seen within the Shapoorji Pallonji Group as a 'big picture strategist'


July 2, 2012

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Reclusive Indian-born Irish tycoon Pallonji Mistry, 82, officially bequeathed the chairman’s role of the $2.5-billion Shapoorji Pallonji Group (SPG) to eldest son, Shapoor Mistry, 47, in early June.

The change of guard was in keeping with the way the low-profile diversified conglomerate and its promoters go about their task – without ceremony and any announcement from the rooftops.

Shapoor-Mistry.jpgShapoor will continue to be managing director, and Pallonji may take on the mantle of chairman emeritus, suggest two senior group officials on the condition of anonymity.

When contacted, a group spokesperson confirmed the move. "Pallonji Mistry has stepped down as chairman of Shapoorji Pallonji Group and Shapoor Mistry has taken up this role. The group companies will continue to get Pallonji Mistry’s advice as and when required," he said.

Shapoor has taken charge as chairman & MD of SPG a little over six months before younger brother Cyrus Mistry, 43, is slated to succeed Ratan Tata, who will retire as chairman of the Tata Group at the end of the year.

In November 2011, Cyrus was appointed deputy chairman and chairmandesignate of Tata Sons, the holding company of the over 100-company group.

Prior to that, Cyrus was joint managing director of the SP Group, besides being a director on the Tata Sons board since August 2006.

Shapoor: The Big Picture Strategist

Pallonji is the single largest shareholder of Tata Sons, the holding company of the salt-to-software Tata Group, and was called the ‘Phantom of Bombay House’ (headquarters of the Tatas) for his reclusive nature. The patriarch had split his 18.5% stake in Tata Sons equally between his two sons a few years ago. Cyrus’ shareholding has been moved into a trust as a part of an agreement between SP and the Tata Group before Cyrus was appointed deputy chairman at Tata Sons.

Shapoor is seen by insiders within the group as a ‘big picture strategist’. Group officials point out that the new CMD has initiated a massive revamp of the SPG brand, which will soon complete 150 years.

The rebranding – to SPG – is part of Shapoor’s ambitious plan to realign group companies to create a powerful combined entity that can compete globally, top group officials said.

The rebranding exercise saw various group companies operating without the SP brand – like Afcons Infrastructure and Forbes Gokak, to name two – being brought under the mother brand.

A new logo, with the slogan ‘Built to Last’ below it, seeks to convey trust and dynamism, and the group’s forward-looking nature even as it seeks to remind clients and consumers about its 150-year heritage, explains a company spokesperson. "The elements of the Shapoorji Pallonji brand have not changed. The group has rich values that have got re-emphasized with the new brand," the spokesperson added.

Shapoor is keen that the group, which is primarily B2B with businesses such as construction, engineering and infrastructure, show more of its consumer-facing side. The group has retail-driven businesses such as residential real estate (including luxury as well as affordable housing), home cleaning, security systems and air and water purifiers. Currently, construction and real estate account for over 60% of the group’s revenues.

"Shapoor is looking at the branding and marketing aspect of the SP brand very closely. He wants the brand to be more visible as an interface to the consumer," a top official said on condition of anonymity.

Meantime, Shapoor has begun strengthening his management team by roping in professionals as part of his globalisation plan. He is working on consolidation of various group companies into manageable entities within the group’s core businesses. Along with mergers, he is also understood to be working on buying assets – overseas and local.

Shapoor has identified a few global and domestic businesses for acquisition, officials close to the management said. SPG has also verticalised its various businesses such as real estate, construction and infrastructure according to the recommendations of management consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group.