‘Steel man of India’ JJ Irani breathes his last

‘Steel man of India’ JJ Irani breathes his last

Irani won various accolades over the years.

Former MD of Tata Steel JJ Irani passed away on Monday night at the age of 86. He is survived by his wife Daisy Irani and his three children Zubin, Niloufer and Tanaaz.

Known as the ‘Steel man of India’ for his over four-decade association with Tata Steel, Irani retired from the company’s board in 2011.

N Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Sons, condoled the demise of Irani and said: “Dr JJ Irani was a quintessential Tata man. He was a towering corporate personality whose contribution to the steel industry was immense. Dr Irani will be deeply missed by all of us at Tata Group and we pray for his departed soul.”

TV Narendran, CEO & MD, Tata Steel, said: “Dr Irani transformed Tata Steel in the nineties and made us one of the lowest-cost steel producers in the world. He helped build a strong foundation on which we grew in the subsequent decades. He was one of the pioneers of the TQM movement in the country. He led with courage and conviction and was a role model and mentor for many in Tata Steel then and now. The employees of Tata Steel, past and present, are indebted to his leadership during turbulent times.”

Irani won various accolades over the years. These include Padma Bhushan and the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in metallurgy. He was inducted as a fellow in the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1996 and was conferred an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth in 1997.

He was born on June 2, 1936, in Nagpur to Jiji and Khorshed Irani. He completed his bachelor’s degree in science from Science College, Nagpur, in 1956 and a master’s in Geology from Nagpur University in 1958. He then went to the University of Sheffield in the UK as a JN Tata scholar, where he completed a masters in metallurgy in 1960 and later secured a PhD in the subject in 1963.

Irani started his professional career with the British Iron and Steel Research Association in Sheffield in 1963, but returned to India to join the Tata Iron and Steel Company (now Tata Steel) in 1968. He joined the firm as assistant to the director-in-charge of research and development. He progressed rapidly over the years and became the general manager in 1979 and the president of Tata Steel in 1985. He became the joint MD of Tata Steel in 1988 and the MD in 1992 before retiring in 2001.

He joined the board of Tata Steel in 1981 and was also a non-executive director from 2001 for a decade. Besides Tata Steel and Tata Sons, Irani also served as a director of several Tata Group companies, including Tata Motors and Tata Teleservices.

Besides his iconic stay at Tata Steel, Irani was also known for the JJ Irani Committee on Company Law, 2005, which made important recommendations to redraft the Companies Act, 1956. These included effective measures for the protection of stakeholders and investors, including small investors by setting up sound corporate governance practices. To deal with the scourge of vanishing companies, it recommended setting up preventive measures such as registration and sustained through a regime that required regular and mandatory filing of statutory documents, and levy heavy penalties on the companies found inadequate in their disclosures and filings.

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The panel was also against providing a relaxed framework of corporate governance for public financial institutions. According to the committee, such institutions should be put through similar requirements of financial and management prudence as other financial institutions. In addition, with a view to protecting the interest of various stakeholders in a company, the committee also recommended the constitution of a ‘Stakeholders’ Relationship Committee (SRC)’. Currently, every company which has more than 1,000 shareholders, deposit holders or other security holders has to constitute an SRC, with a non-executive director as the chairperson with the objective of grievance redressal of various stakeholders.

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