- Mody, a man who embodied life, leaves behind a legacy of living life to the full
Padma Bhushan Rustomji Hormusji Mody, popularly known as Russi Mody, is known for his long standing association with Tata Steel, formerly known as TISCO. He retired from Tata Steel in March 1993, leaving behind a legacy of 53 years, which won him and the company international acclaim in various fields especially in industrial relations. Through his method of practical wisdom and pragmatic decision-making, he led from the front, winning hearts and minds alike. A pioneer in the industry, he understood and implemented concepts such as human resource development long before they became commonplace management practice.
Son of Sir Homy Mody and Lady Jerbhai, Russi Mody completed his education from the Harrow School and Christ Church College, Oxford, after which he joined the steel company in 1939. He rose through the ranks to become chairman of the company. He was promoted to the position of director of personnel in 1953, and took up the position of 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 of Tata Steel.
Russi Mody’s experience of rising through the ranks from the steel mill lent him a sense of empathy and appreciation for the welfare of workers with always a finger on their pulse. As he loved saying, ‘What is man management? That one must behave naturally with any human being.’
Russi Mody was also the forerunner of the technological turnaround at Tata Steel, making it a benchmark for the rest of the steel industry to follow. The Government of India bestowed the ‘Padma Bhushan’ upon the ‘forever young man’ in 1989 for his exemplary contribution to Indian industry.
Reactions of the senior leadership of the Tata group
Ratan N Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons: “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 work force throughout his tenure. He lived a full and energetic life and will always be remembered by his friends.”
Cyrus P Mistry, Chairman, Tata group: “Russi Mody was a stalwart who steered Tata Steel to become one of India’s most respected corporations.
“His vision was all encompassing: excellence in business, enduring commitment to society and focus on the dignity of the individual. 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. He could indeed say the company did many things, and it also made steel.
“In all this, Russi Mody embodied the Tata principles of building trustworthy and socially oriented organisations.”
Dr Jamshed J Irani, former managing director, Tata Steel and former director, Tata Sons: “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.”
B Muthuraman, vice chairman, Tata Steel: “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 of 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.”
HM Nerurkar, former managing director, Tata Steel: “Our nation has lost a great human being who realised the importance of excellence in all facets of management and globalisation earlier than many of his peers thereby laying the foundation for the company to grow in the liberalised economy. He will always be remembered for the difference he made to the life of employees of Tata Steel. May his soul rest in peace.”
TV Narendran, managing director, Tata Steel, India and SEA: “Russi Mody has been an iconic leader not only for Tata Steel but also for India. His connect with people in the organisation and the communities around us was legendary. I joined Tata Steel when he was the chairman and managing director and had the privilege of seeing him at work. He was a multi-faceted personality and knew how to lead a full life. On behalf of all my colleagues at Tata Steel, both past and present, I salute Russi Mody.”
Russi Mody will always be remembered for his passion and humility at the helm of affairs at Tata Steel. A prolific professional, he was always true to himself. He demonstrated the value of human resource and the importance of the workers that form the foundation of any successful enterprise.