1. Finances: Ratan Tata hands over a sprawling business group that is in good financial health. But there are pockets of trouble that will need the immediate attention of Cyrus Mistry, especially the European operations of Tata Steel Ltd and the telecom business, which are weighing down on group financials.
2. Governance: There is a delicate balance between the operating companies and the group headquarters. J.R.D. Tata ran the group as a loose federation while Ratan Tata tried to shift the balance in favour of Bombay House. It was not an easy battle. Mistry will have to continue to manage the balance with subtlety.
3. Strategy: Ratan Tata made his mark as a strategic thinker well before he took over the top job at Tata Sons Ltd, the holding company. Later, he either sold or shut down businesses with no future, and reallocated capital to new businesses such as cars, telecom and retailing. Mistry will have to chart the next stage of growth for the group.
4. Leadership: The change of guard at the top is part of a larger generational change that is due in the group. Ratan Tata has already promoted the next generation of young leaders in various companies. Mistry will have to build on this to create a cohesive team that will be in charge in the coming decades.
5. Legacy: Mistry will be burdened with high expectations on two counts. One, outsiders will be watching whether he can earn the reputation as a business leader and risk taker that Ratan Tata eventually did. Two, they will be keeping track of how well he protects the unique Tata culture.