Tata Sons, promoter of the major operating Tata companies, appointed top-ranked investment strategist Farida Khambata as the first woman independent director in the company’s 103-year history. With the appointment of Khambata, global strategist at emerging markets-focused investment firm Cartica Capital, Tata Sons’ board has expanded to seven members.
Cartica Capital, set up by former executives of International Finance Corporation (IFC), an arm of World Bank and that manages assets worth over $2.6 billion, has investments in TTK Prestige, Page Industries (the Indian franchise of Jockey International), Ratnakar Bank and Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services in India.
Khambata had joined Cartica from IFC where she last held the position of regional vice-president in charge of operations in East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Latin America and the Carribbean.
While Khambata is the first woman professional to be a part of the Tata Sons board, Navajbai Tata, wife of Sir Ratan Tata, the younger son of Tata Group founder Jamsetji Tata, was the first woman from the promoter family to join the Tata Sons board. In 1918, following the premature death of Sir Ratan Tata, Navajbai was appointed a director on the Tata Sons board and she held that position till her death in 1965.
Khambata’s appointment indicates Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry’s increased preference for new and external faces on the company’s board, a shift from the past where most of its directors were Tata Group executives. Earlier, Tata Sons directors were also part of the group executive council that provided strategic and operational support to then Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata. Now the Tata Sons board and the group executive council have separate members under Mistry.
At present, besides two Tata executives, Ishaat Hussain and R Gopalakrishnan, the rest on the Tata Sons board are external members__Khambata, Ronen Sen, Vijay Singh and Nitin Nohria.
While Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School and Singh, former defence secretary, were appointed as independent directors on Tata Sons board in 2013, Sen, former ambassador of India to the United States, was appointed along with Khambata. Sen had previously served as an independent director on the board of Tata Group’s flagship Tata Motors.