Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry had his first encounter with Tata shareholders on Friday, when he addressed the annual general meeting of Tata Consultancy Services, the group's most valuable firm.
Observers comparing him to his predecessor, chairman emeritus Ratan Tata, said Mistry replaced Tata's soft-spoken, friendly demeanour with a quiet confidence, delivering a serious and precise speech.
"Ratan Tata has enjoyed your unstinted support; I request you for the same,'' he told the shareholders.
Mistry, 44, at the outset mentioned the flood tragedy in Uttarakhand and the relief work the group is doing.
Mistry's first address to shareholders without Ratan Tata saw F C Kohli sitting in attendance in the front row. Acknowledging his presence, Mistry said, "The company wouldn't be here without him." Kohli was the founding chief executive of for TCS.
Shareholders peppered Mistry with questions, some bordering on the farcical, ranging from the absence of women on the board – on which he said he hoped this would change soon - and its ability to retain talent both overseas and in India.
Mistry showed patience, never interrupting garrulous shareholders, even when a shareholder asked for a job in the group or when shareholders sometimes drew unflattering comparisons with rival Infosys.
Mistry said TCS had grown both revenue and profits strongly in the last year. He would not comment about the company's standing with respect to competitors. He also assuaged shareholder concerns about the fate of the IT industry amid the global slowdown.
"TCS believes the IT services sector still has a strong way to grow and we have good visibility about demand," he said.
Mistry said, "FY14 is expected to look better from the economic environment perspective than last year. TCS will continue to look at newer geographies for expansion and invest in newer technologies such as product platforms and intellectual property."
On the global situation, he said, "The global IT spend for 2012 was $1.9 trillion, growing at 4.2 per cent annually, whereas ITes spends were $1 trillion for the year. TCS believes ITes has high visibility and the company is well placed for this."
On shareholders' concern on the high rate of visa rejections, Mistry pointed to various measures that the company was undertaking. "We select the candidates through a rigorous procedure and subsequently take them through a debrief session following the visa interview," he said.
Overall, the investors seemed impressed with Mistry, though he has some way to go before he can fill the iconic RatanTata's shoes, at least in their minds.