The stage is set, but will Ratan Tata’s successor live up to expectations?

Cyrus Mistry, anointed successor to Ratan Tata, the chairman of the US$83.3 billion Tata group, is best known as the son of construction tycoon Pallonji Mistry, the largest individual shareholder in Tata Sons, the group’s holding company, with an 18% stake. Except for those at Bombay House in Mumbai, Tata’s headquarters, Mistry’s appointment came as a surprise.

Mistry, 43, is only the second non-Tata (after Nowroji Saklatwala) and will be one of the youngest to spearhead the sprawling conglomerate with interests that include steel, hospitality, power, telecoms and motor vehicles.

Mistry studied civil engineering at London’s Imperial College and management at London Business School before joining his family’s construction business. He replaced his father on Tata Sons’ board in 2006 and he will have a year as Ratan Tata’s apprentice, shadowing the chairman and learning the tricks of the trade, before Tata hangs up his boots in December 2012. But getting up to speed is not going to be easy and observers believe he will have a tough time matching Tata’s successful track record.

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