Dr Irani began his career in 1963 as senior scientific officer at the British Iron and Steel Research Association, Sheffield. On his return to India in 1968, he joined Tata Steel as assistant to director (R&D). In 1979, he was appointed General Manager and President in 1985. He became the Managing Director in 1992, a position he held till July 2001.
Dr Irani is an M.Sc in Geology from Nagpur University and has a doctorate certificate from the University of Sheffield, UK. He received a number of awards recognizing his contributions to the company and industry. He was awarded the 'Metallurgist of the Year' award in 1974 from the Ministry of Steel and Mines, the prestigious 'Platinum Medal' in November, 1988, by the Indian Institute of Metals, Ernst & Young's 'Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001' for entrepreneurial success and the 'Twelfth Willy Korf Steel Vision Award’ from World Steel Dynamics and American Metal Market.
Dr Irani has also been awarded the Qimpro Platinum Standard in November 2000, and has received the Indian Merchants' Chamber's Juran Quality Medal for the year 2001, for his role as a statesman for quality. In October 1997, an honorary knighthood (KBE) was conferred on Dr Irani by Queen Elizabeth II.