Newsmaker: Cyrus Mistry
Published 04/04/2016 | 02:30
No one familiar with the history of British colonialism will miss the irony of the former imperial power getting lessons in the realities of cold, hard steel from an Indian businessman.
As chairman of Tata Group, Cyrus Mistry is probably the most powerful businessman in India, and this month's steel crisis in Britain is a reminder of the global scale of the business.
Mistry is in the news after Tata put much of what remains of the UK's once awesome steel business on the market.
It sparked fears for 15,000 jobs at the vast Port Talbot steelworks in Wales, and anger at European and global trade policies that seem to have allowed Chinese firms to flood markets with cheap steel, undermining the viability of production in Europe.
The threatened closure of Port Talbot could even end up, inadvertently, swinging the Brexit referendum in June.
The former Corus Steel Group is one corner of a group that employs more than half-a-million people.
Tata Consulting sponsored last year's New York marathon, and the business owns British icons including Tetley Tea, Land Rover and Jaguar.
Ironically, the 2007 Corus deal was hailed as something of a reverse-colonial triumph by many when Tata bought the UK business. But the numbers are not making sense, and despite a reputation for employee welfare, Tata Group cannot underwrite British steel indefinitely.
If the British government cannot take it on, the decision on when and whether to cut and run ultimately falls on Cyrus Mistry.
The 48-year-old is the youngest son of Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, and as such part of one of the world's richest families. The Irish passport he carries when he jets between global investments is thanks to his mother, Patsy Perin Dubash, who was born in Dublin. In India she married Pallonji Mistry, who headed up the family's vast construction group as well as acquiring almost a fifth of Tata Group, a separate Indian business giant.
The Mistrys and Tatas belong to the same small Parsi community at home, and their links run deep. When Ratan Tata stood down as Tata Group chairman in 2012, Cyrus Mistry's potential rivals for the job included his brother-in-law, Noel Tata.