Rustomji Homusji Mody, popularly known as Russi Mody, the former chairman of Tata Steel, passed away at his residence in Kolkata late on Friday. Mody, who was conferred with the Padma Bhushan in 1989 for his contribution to the field of trade and industry, joined Tata Steel (then called Tata Iron and Steel Co) in 1939, and rose through the ranks to become its chairman.
Son of Sir Homy Mody and Lady Jerbhai, Mody completed his education from the Harrow School and Christ Church College, Oxford. Mody, fondly known as "Man of Steel", always had a sense of empathy and appreciation for the welfare of workers, and had a finger on their pulse. He loved to say: "What is man management? That one must behave naturally with any human being."
"Russi Mody was an institution at Tata Steel. Under his leadership, Tata Steel grew significantly and he instituted many human resource initiatives. He was well regarded and respected by the workforce throughout his tenure. He lived a full and energetic life and will always be remembered by his friends," said Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons, remembering Mody's 53 year long legacy.
The bitter spat between Ratan Tata and Mody over control of the Tata Group is well known. Mody was ousted in 1993 by the group chairman. However, the two later reconciled in 2007 after Modi praised Ratan's leadership at Tata Group.
Industry officials said that Mody, despite being a zoroastrian by faith, wanted his body to be cremated in Hindu style. Accordingly, he will be cremated in Kolkata on Sunday and then his ashes would be taken to to be buried beside the tomb of his mother in Jamshedpur.
Mody was the forerunner of a technological turnaround at Tata Steel, making it a benchmark for the rest of the steel industry to follow. "On the one hand, Russi Mody steered a major modernisation programme of the company and, on the other, widened its development initiatives for local communities and to address larger national needs. Entities like the Tata Steel Rural Development Society and the Tata Football Academy bear testimony to this," said Cyrus P Mistry, Group Chairman, Tata Sons, said.
Mody took over as position of director of personnel in 1953, and became director of raw materials in 1965. In 1970, he was appointed as the director of operations and became joint managing director in 1972. He then went on to become the managing director of Tata Steel in 1974 and on October 23, 1984 he was appointed chairman and managing director.
B Muthuraman, Vice Chairman, Tata Steel, said, "Among Russi Mody's several multi-dimensional characteristics, what stands out is his passion for people, people aspects and people development. He had a knack for spotting talent and giving opportunity to potential leaders, and all this without the help of the current day performance appraisals, various kinds of tests and so on. He was an excellent judge of people.
He would 'test' potential leaders by throwing them into totally new territory and watch their performance in the new surroundings. He touched many lives. As a people person, he was adept in dealing with a wide cross section of people and made each of them feel comfortable. He will be remembered by many."
Dr Jamshed J Irani, former Managing Director, Tata Steel & Director, Tata Sons, said, "Russi Mody left his stamp on every activity that he touched. He was a giant among men, and never failed to act convincingly in a manner that he thought was right. For most of the 40-odd years that I knew him, and worked with him, he guided me in my duties and we were great colleagues. He left his stamp of authority on all aspects of life in Tata Steel and in Jamshedpur. We will certainly miss him.'