JRD Tata (1904–1993): An Exemplar Of Indian Business

Renowned industrialist, philanthropist, ace aviator, and noted entrepreneur, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy (JRD) Tata was a pioneering businessman and a visionary ahead of his time. For his various achievements, he received accolades like the Legion d’Honneur from the French government and the Padma Vibhushan as well as the Bharat Ratna from the Indian government. His contributions to the rise and spread of Indian business abroad is a legacy built and a legacy lived. On the day of his demise, the Indian Parliament was adjourned for the day — an honour reserved only for Members of Parliament.

Here are some noteworthy and applauded achievements which made him such a celebrated visionary:

1. In February 1929, he was India’s first licensed pilot. In 1932, he went on to start India’s first commercial carrier — Tata Air Services — transporting mail and passengers within India and which went on to become Air India.

2. He launched Air India’s international services in two years after the company went public, in 1948, Air India completed its first international trip from Mumbai to London via Cairo and Geneva. This flight carried 35 passengers including JRD Tata.

3. He paved the way for employee welfare schemes in India besides the investments in the education and health sectors, JRD Tata is also known for laying the foundation for employee welfare schemes in India. Tata Group the first Indian company, to introduce a provident fund, medical services, maternity benefits, gratuities, accident insurance schemes and the eight-hour shift. The Indian government later emulated his voluntary reforms, introducing the Employees’ State Insurance Scheme of India, the Factories Act, 1948 and the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.

4. Saw to the growth of the Tata group from 14 companies to a 95 company-strong conglomerate — a pillar of the Indian economy. JRD Tata was the founder of Tata Memorial Hospital, Tata Tea, Titan, Tata Airlines (now known as Air India), Voltas, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Motors, Tata Chemicals, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and the National Centre for the Performing Arts. He also laid the foundations for many research and educational institutes in India. His vision and management skills were recognized globally, and many honors were conferred upon him, including the “International Man of Management” award in 1953.

At the time of joining the Tata Group as an apprentice, JRD Tata had renounced his French citizenship and India gained its brightest jewel. JRD Tata went on to lead the conglomerate at the age of 34. He grew the group’s value from USD 100 million to a whopping USD 5 billion. Not only did he benefit the Indian economy, Jamshedpur, home of Tata Steel, was also selected by the UN as a Global Compact city due to the Tata Group’s contribution towards improving the infrastructure of the city.

On his 114th birth anniversary, India continues to reap the fruits of his efforts.