CHIEF executives in the West share some familiar gripes: quarterly-results-obsessed analysts who make it impossible to think about the long term; activists pressing for change before investments come to fruition; and sluggish economic growth. How envious they must be of Cyrus Mistry, the boss of the Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate. Its central firm, Tata Sons, is unlisted. Tata Trusts, the charities that own two-thirds of Tata Sons, think in terms of decades, not years. India is the world’s fastest-growing large economy. Given such favourable circumstances, Mr Mistry’s peers might well look at the uninspiring financial performance of much of his group since he took over in December 2012 and conclude they could do better.

The firm is rightly admired at home. Founded in 1868, it has long embodied the notion of corporate social responsibility. Employing nearly 700,000 people, it operates in a wide array of industries, among them table salt, IT, steel, watches, power plants, leather goods, a slew of shopping chains, tea, trucks and buses, undersea cables, mobile telephony and luxury cars and hotels. It has not relied on political favours to...Continue reading