Cyrus Mistry, Chairman-designate of Tata Steel, may have learnt many boardroom lessons from Ratan Tata, but on Tuesday he gained practical experience on how to handle shareholders at AGMs.

There were many emotional moments as it was the last Tata Steel AGM for Ratan Tata. On display was a mix of rare consumer complaints and the usual call for issue of bonus shares.

Asha Lata Maheshwari, who makes chairmen and managing directors’ blush at AGMs by comparing them with flowers and the moon, was at her best, inducing fellow investors to put their hands together in support of all her demands.

A regular at all bluechip company AGMs, Maheshwari requested Tata to attend at least two or three more AGMs after his retirement as a show of support to Mistry.

To drive home her point, she said: “…Mistry saab aap mike mey boliyena Tata saab ko agley saal AGM mey aane keyliye. Please boliyena, (Mistry sir, please use the mike to request Tata to attend at least the next AGM.)”

Refusing to proceed with her speech till Mistry took the mike, she wanted shareholders to back her by clapping. However, Tata signalled Mistry not to speak by putting a finger to his lips. A shrewd Mistry finally convinced Maheshwari by saying he had already answered and she missed it due to the loud noise.

After all the happy tidings, three shareholders-cum-dealers took the mike to convey their grievances regarding financial disputes with the company.

Among them, one Tata Steel dealer, Agarwal, used the AGM platform to air personal grievances. He pointed out that his money was not refunded fully after returning a consignment sent by the company. He could have been told by the chair not to use the shareholders meeting for highlighting personal complaints.

As a true gentleman, Tata requested him to set up a separate meeting with Nerurkar (MD, Tata Steel) to sort out his problem. He was told to bring a lawyer along to act as a mediator. Somewhat convinced, the same investor had another complaint against Tata Motors for which he was directed to meet Ravi Kant (Vice-Chairman, Tata Motors).

Tata also had a word of caution for the investor. “Mind you, there is no assurance that the dispute will be solved in your favour. A decision will be taken after considering all the facts and figures,” he said.

Having run from pillar-to-post before with his case, the sixty-plus Agarwal signed off by saying “Saab, manzoor hai, meeting nahi mila toh, aap ka naam loonga” (Agreed, Sir, and if I do not get an appointment, I will take your name).

suresh.iyengar@ thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 17, 2012)
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