‘Over in a minute’: Cyrus Mistry aide tells story of sacking

Recalling the events of October 24, Kumar wrote that he was on a panel, where over 100 young students and managers were participating in a competition sponsored by Tatas, when he heard that Mistry had been removed.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai | Updated: November 6, 2016 3:37 am
Cyrus Mistry, Tata Sons, ratan tata, tata group, Tata Sons chairman, Cyrus Mistry sacking, Cyrus Mistry sacked, Cyrus Mistry ratan tata, Cyrus Mistry tata sons, Shapoorji Pallonji, india news, tata news, business news, indian express, indian express news File Photo: August, 2012. Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry at Birla Matoshri Mumbai (Express file photo)

PROFESSOR NIRMALYA Kumar, a close aide of former Tata Sons Chairman Cyrus Mistry and a member of the now dismantled Group Executive Council of Tata Sons, has said he was sacked from the $103 billion group in just “a minute”, on the same day that Mistry was removed.

“At 9 pm (on October 24), I get a call from a colleague with whom I had worked very closely and got along famously as we were often on the same side of arguments. He informs me: ‘it is my unpleasant duty to say your services are no longer required’. No explanation. I query, ‘does this mean I do not need to show up tomorrow morning?’ Receive an affirmative reply. That’s it. It’s all over in a minute,” wrote Kumar, who was earlier a professor at the

Watch| Cyrus Mistry Rubbishes Tatas Allegations: Find Out What He Said

London Business School, in his blog titled ‘I just got fired’.

“It was not as if I was fired for non-performance (my last evaluation was excellent). I always do my best — it’s the least I expect from myself and the most anyone can expect from me. I was fired for just being there at my position — working intensely and extensively with Cyrus,” he wrote.

While Kumar said today that he was fired, Tata Sons, in a statement on October 29, said that Kumar and two other members of Mistry’s advisory council had resigned.

Earlier, Mistry also questioned his removal, saying, “I cannot believe that I was removed on grounds of non-performance. I am not sure if the individual board members and trustees truly appreciated the extent of the problems I had inherited.”

Recalling the events of October 24, Kumar wrote that he was on a panel, where over 100 young students and managers were participating in a competition sponsored by Tatas, when he heard that Mistry had been removed.

“The theme was big data, and since I led this group-wide initiative by setting up a new company focused on data analytics, the participants were quizzing me on its potential. Suddenly, a colleague comes and whispers in my ear that Chairman Cyrus Mistry has been asked to step down,” Kumar wrote. “My head jerks — what? But I am on a panel, so (I) keep answering the questions, but signal to the facilitator that we need to wrap this up early,” wrote Kumar, who was responsible for strategy and reported directly to Mistry.

“Now readers, no pity is needed. It is something that has happened to many, and there are entire reality shows on TV built around the theme ‘you are fired’. But still nothing prepares you for this. I realise that I am unemployed for the first time since the age of 18,” wrote Kumar, who has also served on the faculty of Harvard Business School, IMD, Switzerland and Kellogg School of Management.

According to Kumar, his first thought went to the 70-plus people he had recruited in the Big Data team over the past year. “What is going to happen to them? They joined on my word that we were going to make this a core capability of the group. Quickly, I shoot off a text message to a colleague with a plea to take charge of this venture. My four-member team, I am less concerned about, as they are enormously talented and familiar enough with the group to land on their feet,” he wrote.

“The following morning, what to do? Well, a bit lost, and ready at 8:30, instead of the usual 8:00, I head for my morning Starbucks coffee. I find a new proposition for Starbucks that never occurred to me previously: a place for unemployed managers, all dressed in suits, with nowhere to go. Yes, there is the office to clear out and a final settlement to be agreed on, but I am in no mood to go to Bombay House for this. It can wait for another day,” he wrote.

“The lesson for my team was clear. I told them these people have made it to the top. They know how the system works. When in future anyone mentions me, please don’t say anything positive. Throw me under the bus to gain credibility in the new regime. It’s my parting advice,” he wrote. “What I found exceptional about the group was the kind of person that Tata attracts — unpretentious and dedicated… They deserve a great chairman.”

“Once fired, you discover your friends and the integral qualities of those who worked with you. The interesting insight for me was that the higher in the organisation you go, this ‘human’ aspect declines. The people at the ‘bottom’ of the pyramid treated me with the same respect and affection as always. Their smiles were genuine and open. Those in the middle, like my team, were sincerely sad to see me go. They repeatedly mentioned what fun it was to have worked with me,” wrote Kumar.

“In my 30-year career, I had only three bosses who inspired me: Lou Stern, my PhD advisor at Northwestern University; Laura Tyson, my dean at LBS; and you. Thank you, Cyrus.”

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  1. P
    Proud Indian
    Nov 6, 2016 at 4:00 am
    How unethical for a senior exec to write in public domain such professional matters! Any corp will think twice before hiring him again...
    Reply
    1. M
      Meena
      Nov 7, 2016 at 3:35 am
      No job comes with tenancy rights and neither is any job secured. Each one of us including celebrity professors who get into corporate stint need to experience the same.
      Reply
      1. T
        Teekhai
        Nov 6, 2016 at 1:20 am
        taste of their own medicine. this had happened to millions; is happening to millions; will happen to millions. it pains only if you are heart.
        Reply
        1. D
          dibyendu Deepak
          Nov 6, 2016 at 4:46 am
          People like Kumar should be kept out of politics. Since we still don't know the real story it's difficult to say who's right or wrong but one thing is very clear that the way it was done is WRONG. It shakes up the company and perception takes a beating. Tata b perception has taken some beating.
          Reply
          1. F
            Franky
            Nov 6, 2016 at 5:28 am
            By his writeup and going public with media Kumar chances to land another lucrative Job with any big group in India or abroad have become Zero, he himself should know this first. He is either starting his own consulting even to get business for him is very less chances.
            Reply
            1. G
              Ganesh
              Nov 6, 2016 at 2:48 am
              Ratan Tata has became OBSTACLE to 'CHANGE' like Pitamah Bhishma - he won't allow SUCCESSFUL transition to next generation leadership. Cyrus was the 'BEST FIT' to Tata's - gentleman. When two power center middle men create mess, I wonder great leader like RNT doesn't understand it? He should immerse all Harvard business school advisors. Now what is GUARANTEE he will allow next leader to work properly? at-least Cyrus was insider and of his choice.
              Reply
              1. G
                Ganesh
                Nov 6, 2016 at 2:30 am
                Where are the values Tatas boasted for years? Ratan Tata is himself posing threat to Tata b, by not allowing successive leaders to work freely, professionally. He has gathered bunch of in-efficient advisers from Business schools, non-performers. he himself created mess. Tata is sinking ship. I sold my all-few shares in TATA powers at big loss. bye bye TATA
                Reply
                1. R
                  Rishi Raj
                  Nov 6, 2016 at 6:10 am
                  It confirms our suion that all businesses are run on family basis. Nepotism wins over merit. Tatas are no exception. Any government in India cannot leave business to be run by private players who thrive only in conditions of unfair markets.
                  Reply
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