Home » A Look Back At JRD Tata’s Entrepreneurial Life
India has been a nation of multifarious renowned industrialists, who have played prominent roles in the growth of Indian economy. One such grand name is; Tata!
The foundation of Tata was laid by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata in 1868, a pioneer in national and international business sectors of energy, steel, textile, and hospitality. Among the prolonged industrialist dynasty of Tata group, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata had the most versatile outlook, predominantly recognized as one of the greatest Indian minds.
The uncrowned King of Indian business industry was born in Paris in 1904 as a second child to a French mother and a Parsi Indian industrialist father Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata. He had an idyllic childhood, a Prince of a wealthy business tycoon, who had all mediums to fulfill the prodigy of his young mind.
J.R.D Tata was brought up in France with an essence of French in his upbringing. But successfully inherited two different Indo-French cultures and accordingly received both French Legion of Honor and India’s highest prestigious civilian award – The Bharat Ratna.
J.R.D Tata was a rare capitalist in the history of Indian business sector. A great visionary entrepreneur, an acknowledged nationalist, a dedicated philanthropist and a substantial pillar in the development of the economy in India, who elevated technological innovation and lavishly funded initiatives in the arts.
Here’s a bit more about him.
Childhood and education: – J.R.D Tata did his schooling in Paris, London, Bombay (now Mumbai) and Yokohama. He spent most of his childhood in France, attended Janson De Sailly School in Paris and was drafted in the French Foreign Legion for one year, a peerless military unit in the French Army.
Following that, to improve his English, he was sent to English grammar class to prepare for his future Cambridge education for higher studies. In India, he went to the Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay. Later in 1923 he enrolled in a crammer school in London.
Despite getting education from multiple schools and countries, J.R.D. Tata didn’t get past matriculation and his plan for higher studies in Cambridge didn’t materialize, as his father summoned him back to India and asked him to join the family business.
At a mere age of 22, he was made the director of the company. Though the soreness hounded him for many years that he couldn’t go to the university.
An industrialist: – After returning from France J.R.D Tata joined the Tata conglomerate as an unpaid trainee in 1925. After 12 years in 1938, he was elected as chairman of Tata group.
When he assumed office as its chairman, he started with 14 enterprises under his belt. Under his leadership, the Tata group became India’s largest business conglomerate, that grew from a $100 million group to $5 billion global corporate house.
The famous business tycoon, J.R.D Tata remained the chairman of Tata group for 50 consecutive years, and by the time he retired, the Tata group was a corporation of 95 businesses spread across the globe.
It was his resounding leadership, under which, the group successfully entered the automotive business with Tata Motors in 1945. He founded Tata Airlines in 1932 as India’s first commercial airline, which became Air India in 1946. Later in 1953 he was appointed as the director on the board of Indian airlines by the government of India and served this position for another 25 years.
The best part of J.R.D Tata was that he firmly believed in the welfare of its employees and pleaded the doctrines of not working more than eight hours in a day, with free medical aid, accidental compensation scheme, and provident fund. Later these schemes became an obligatory course for every company, adopted by the government as statuary requirement in entire India.
Tryst with aviation: – J.R.D Tata’s tryst with aviation was since his childhood. Louis Bleriot the ace French pilot was his hero, who was the first man to fly across the English Channel. Bleriot had a house on the coast of France near the Tata’s French country home, who once allowed a joyride as co-pilot to J.R.D then that the 15-year-old boy determined himself to fly one day.
Though he waited ten years for it to happen. After returning to India he made his dream come true to soar the skies and became the first pilot to qualify in the country, held a pilot’s license which bore on it number 1 on 10th February 1929.
It was his passion that after a year he competed for the Aga Khan Trophy, he has the honor of being a first Indian to fly solo from Indian to England. J.R.D’s competitional journey of flying an aircraft begin from Karachi to London, in-between he landed en route to Aboukir Bay in Egypt.
There he found another competitor Aspy Engineer, who was flying in the opposite direction, from London to Karachi, stranded in the desert field by the scarcity of a spark plug. It was J.R.D Tata’s sportsmanship he parted with his spare one, Aspy defeated him by a couple of hours, even though he lost the competition, but the experience of participation substantiated his love for the flying.
Later Aspy became the second Indian to be the chief of the Air Staff and served as India’s ambassador to Iran. In 1932 J.R.D started TataAirlines, it was the first commercial airline service in India that transported mail and passengers simultaneously. J.R.D himself flew the first inaugural flight journey from Karachi to Madras (now Chennai) using a single-engine De Havilland Puss Moth.
In 1946 Tata Airlines became Air India and two years later after Independence Indian government acquired 49℅ of company’s stake. Within ten years he became the president of International Air Transport Association (IATA), in 1953 the airline was nationalized, J.R.D remained the helm of Air India for another 25 years till 1978, making it one of the renowned airline service across the globe.
In 1948, he was named as the Honorary Group Captain of Indian Air Force and in 1966 as an Honorary Commodore of India.
In 1932, Sir Dorabji Trust was set up by him. In 1941 the trust founded Asian’s first Cancer Hospital named Tata Memorial Center for Cancer Research and Treatment under the supervision of J.R.D Tata.
He died on November 29th, 1993 in Geneva, Switzerland with over sixty years of experience in top management, which helped him develop his own philosophy and method of leadership.
The legend of J.R.D Tata still inspires generations of entrepreneurs in India, who look up to his ways of working and learning from it.