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Low-key choice for high-profile Tata Group

Cyrus Mistry is shown in this undated handout photograph released by The Tata Group.

HO/afp/getty images

Cyrus Mistry, the chairman-elect of the Tata Group, was managing director of his family's Mumbai-based real estate and construction business until his appointment on Wednesday as one of India's pre-eminent business leaders.

Although he is the son of the largest individual shareholder of the Tata Group and has long-deputised for his octogenarian billionaire father, Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, he is not a high-profile figure within the salt-to-steel group or well-known in India's business circles.

Those familiar with him describe the 43-year-old executive as low-key but stress his educated pedigree and ability to operate comfortably in Indian and western environments.

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Mr. Mistry is a graduate in civil engineering from the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London. He also studied for an MSc at London Business School.

He has strong connections with the UK, where the Tata Group is the largest manufacturing employer. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Civil Engineers. He is also on the board of Imperial College India Foundation.

Someone familiar with Mr Mistry described him as a "sensible, understated" executive, who had the key advantage of being from a Parsee background, like Mr. Tata and his predecessors in the Tata Group.

"[Cyrus]is very low-key and not one of those industrialists who is making a flash. He's unbelievably understated but he's well-educated," he said.

Mr. Mistry was chosen ahead of his older brother, Shapoor, and his brother-in-law Noel Tata, Mr. Tata's nephew and considered by many to be the internal frontrunner for the job.

"Choosing someone in their early 40s is appropriate," said the person familiar with Mr. Mistry. "All the eligible Tata senior managers are in their 60s and are close to retirement. [The generational leap]will be taken well by the market."

Mr. Mistry joined the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, the family owned construction group, in 1991 as a director. After the acquisition of construction group AFCONS, he became the group's chairman in 2003. Shapoorji Pallonji Group's recent expansion into agriculture and biofuels, which included the leasing of 50,000 hectares in Ethiopia, was overseen by Mr. Mistry.

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Mr. Mistry was appointed to the board of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, five years ago. He holds several non-executive board positions across the group, and has shown a strong interest in Tata's entertainment interests.

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