A group of sharp legal minds and a few friends gathered on a rainy evening in Mumbai a fortnight ago to chat and celebrate the colourful, curious, eccentric and often bohemian lives of the Parsis. The occasion was the release of ‘Oh! Those Parsis’, a delightfully funny book by Berjis Desai, one of the top lawyers with a bagful of unforgettable stories. Amid the spicy and scandalous tales, the book, said the chief guest, senior counsel and fellow Parsi Darius Khambata, also sends out a subliminal message that it’s good to be different, particularly in a world where strife and intolerance cast a shadow on liberty and happiness. For the affable Berjis, once a journo, the new innings as an author carries an unmistakable sense of déjà vu.
A Reception to Remember
The event of the week in Mumbai was clearly the wedding reception of the young scions Neville Tata and Manasi Kirloskar last Saturday. Among family members, Ratan Tata made it a point to be there for his nephew. Old money and sheer class were on ample display on both sides, with women in resplendent but understated jewellery. Tata’s paternal and maternal grandmothers, Simone Tata and Patsy Mistry, were present and so were his maternal uncles Shapur and Cyrus. In case you are wondering, no, the Mistry brothers did not cross paths with Ratan Tata. While Pallonji Mistry, the patriarch of his family, could not attend due to his ill health, Isha and Anant Piramal, the young scion couple from the Ambani and Piramal family were there too. So were the Tata brass, with Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran present at the function, as was Noel’s mentor Noshir Soonawala.
Bidding Adieu to a Titan
Bhaskar Bhat, the managing director of Titan Company, bid adieu to investors at a recent analyst conference call. After 17 years at the helm, out of his 30-year tenure in the company, Bhat is synonymous with Titan’s success and wealth creation for its shareholders. One of the investors on call was Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, who along with his wife Rekha owns close to 7% of Titan, which amounts to Rs 6,650 crore of his portfolio. “I’ll really miss him. It’s an end of an era,” said Jhunjhunwala, adding that it was difficult to imagine Bhat not being on analyst calls. Many others also acknowledged Bhat’s pivotal role in the expansion of the company from a modest watchmaker with two promoters, Tamil Nadu government’s TIDCO and Tata Sons, to a player now straddling jewellery and even eye-wear segments.
Seeking a Safe Exit
That a well-known fund’s many investments have gone kaput is common knowledge. But now speculation is rife that one of its executives is on the way out. Interestingly, these funds have a clause like ‘golden parachute’ for executives when they leave. What is particularly curious about this particular exit is that the payment of a speculated million dollars or more is not being made in India. The outgoing exec apparently prefers to have the money in a foreign account, especially the Swiss.
Telecom hotshots, senior Trai officials and bureaucrats from the communications ministry are bound for Budapest next month to participate in a global tech conclave hosted by the International Telecom Union. Discussions will range from forging partnerships to innovative funding models for cost effective 5G deployments. Experts will also wonder aloud on ways to control the use of AI and the data it generates and also creating a safer cyberspace. The government is likely to use learnings from the conclave to finalise 5G spectrum pricing for the next auction.
Making a Point
Last Friday, the Tata Sons annual general meeting went off in a businesslike manner, without much ado. Except, that is, a long desultory eight-page note, read out by Shapoorji Pallonji veteran Jimmy Parakh, on behalf of the Mistry brothers, who hold an 18.4% stake in Tata Sons. Parakh is from the old school and therefore not prone to histrionics, and he made his points in a quiet way and later took his seat.
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