|JEHANGIR RATANJI DADABHOY TATA | | | |Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata popularly known as JRD Tata was one of the most enterprising Indian entrepreneurs. He was a pioneer | |aviator and built one of the largest industrial houses of India. He had the honour of being India’s first pilot, he was Chairman of | |Tata & Sons for 50 years and launched Air India International as India’s first international airline.
He was awarded India’s highest | |civilian award, the Bharat Ratna in 1992. | [pic]Early life and education J. R. D. Tata was born in Paris, France, the second child of Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (Parsi) and his French wife, Suzanne “Sooni” Briere. J. R. D. was an interesting product of two continents. He was educated in France, Japan and England before being drafted into the French army and assigned to a regiment in France called Le Saphis for a mandatory one-year period. JRD wanted to extend his service in the forces but destiny had something else in store for him.
By leaving the French army JRD’s life was saved because shortly thereafter, the regiment in which he served was totally wiped out during an expedition in Morocco. At the end of his time there, he expected to go on to Cambridge where a place was reserved for him. But his father summoned him back to India to join the Tatas. As his mother was French, he spent much of his childhood in France and as a result, French was his first language. Tata also attended the French Foreign Legion.
He attended the Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai. He did not continue beyond matriculation as mentioned in his biography. It was to rankle with him for decades that he never went to a university. His father must have had a premonition, for he died nine months later and J. R. D. took his place as director of Tata Sons, which controls India’s largest industrial group. J. R. D. was twenty-one. JRD Tata died in Geneva, Switzerland on November 29, 1993 at the age of 89 and was buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
On his death, the Indian Parliament was adjourned in his memory-an honour not usually given to persons who are not Members of Parliament. CONTRIBUTION TO INDIAN INDUSTRY He inherited most of his grandfather Jamshedji’s industrial empire but first became a pioneer in aviation. He had a great personality with a charm and style of his own. JRD Tata joined Tata & Sons as an unpaid apprentice in 1925. He had great interest in flying. J. R. D. Tata was inspired early by aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot, and took to flying.
Louis Bleriot, the first man to fly across the English Channel, had a house on the coast of France near the Tata’s country home. Bleriot’s pilot, who used to land a small plane on the beach, once gave J. R. D. a joyride. It was then that the fifteen-year-old boy decided that one day he too would fly. He had to wait ten years for it to happen. On February 10, 1929, JRD became the first Indian to pass the pilot’s examination. Tata got the first pilot license issued in India. With this distinctive honor of being India’s first pilot, he was instrumental in giving wings to India by building Tata Airlines.
He founded India’s first commercial airline, ‘Tata Airlines’, in 1932, which in 1946 became Air India, now India’s national airline. J. R. D. recalled that in 1932, ‘one October morning as the sun rose on the eastern horizon, a single-engined Puss Moth plane took off from Karachi with a load of mail for Bombay. As the plane hummed and rose the pilot said a word of prayer. ‘ And so India’s first airline – the Tata Airlines – was inaugurated. In 1953, the Indian Government appointed JRD as Chairman of Air-India and a director on the Board of Indian Airlines-a position JRD retained for 25-years.
For his crowning achievements in Aviation, JRD was bestowed with the title of Honorary Air Commodore of India. He later came to be known as the “father of Indian civil aviation”. In 1938, at the age of 34, he became Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding Company of the Tata Group. For decades, J R D directed the huge Tata Group of companies, with major interests in Steel, Engineering, Power, Chemicals and Hospitality. He was famous for succeeding in business while maintaining high ethical standards – refusing to bribe politicians or use the black market.
He started with 14 enterprises under his leadership, when he left, Tata & Sons was a conglomerate of 95 enterprises which they either started or in which they had controlling interest, mmonetarily, the assets of Tata group grew from Rs 620 Million to over Rs 100 Billion. He faced severe problems like foreign exchange crunch and severe government controls on big business, but all these could not deter him. He was a great leader and motivator. He encouraged entrepreneurs such as Sir Homi Mody, Russi Mody, Sumant Moolgaokar and Darbari Seth, and many others.
In 1938, at the age of thirty-four, he became the chairman of the largest industrial group in India, which he led with distinction for fifty-two years. Aviation and flying was his first love but J. R. D. had lot of interest in collecting books. He was not only collector of books but was an avid and enthusiastic reader. He preferred to spend a good deal of his time in what appeared to be his study. There was a whole shelf of books on aviation, another on military ventures and warfare, and one on sports cars and motor racing.
He liked to read crime fiction, lighter books like David Niven’s Bring on the Horses, and books by Louis L’Amour. EMPLOYEE WELFARE In 1956, JRD Tata was first who initiated a program of closer “employee association with management” to give workers a stronger voice in the affairs of the company. He firmly believed in employee welfare and espoused the principles of an eight-hour working day, free medical aid, workers’ provident scheme, and workmen’s accident compensation schemes, which were later, adopted as statutory requirements in India. JRD Tata cared greatly for his workers.
In 1979, Tata Steel instituted a new practice; a worker is deemed to be “at work” from the moment he leaves home for work till he returns home from work. The company is financially liable to the worker if any mishap takes place on the way to and from work. Tata Steel Township was also selected as a UN Global Compact City because of the quality of life, conditions of sanitation, roads and welfare that were offered by Tata Steel. SOCIAL ACTIVITIES JRD was the trustee of Sir Dorabji Tata Trust from its inception in 1932, which remained under his wings for over half a century.
Under his guidance, this Trust established Asia’s first cancer hospital, the Tata Memorial Center for Cancer, Research and Treatment, Bombay, 1941. It also founded the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, 1936 (TISS), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, 1945 (TIFR), and the National Center for Performing Arts. His contribution to the growth of the Indian industry earned him the title of “Grandfather of Indian Industry”. AWARDS AND RECOGNITION He was awarded the Legion d’honneur, by the French Government in 1954.
He received the Padma Vibhushan in 1957 on the eve of silver jubilee of Air India. In 1979, Tata was the recipient of the Tony Jannus Award for his distinguished contributions to commercial aviation. He also received the prestigious Guggenheim Medal for aviation in 1988. In 1992, because of his selfless humanitarian endeavors, and nation building, JRD Tata was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna-one of the rarest instances in which this award was granted during a person’s lifetime.
In the same year, he was also bestowed with the United Nations Population Award for his crusading endeavors towards initiating and successfully implementing the family planning movement in India, much before it became an official government policy. QUALITIES OF JRD TATA With his limitation of formal education, he fulfilled his responsibilities with great spirit , dedication and hard work. He said in an interview once, “Because of a lack of technical know-ledge, my main contribution in management was to encourage others”. He elaborated on how he dealt with each man in his own way and brought out the best in people.
While doing this he quoted, “At times, it involved suppressing yourself. It is painful but necessary… To lead men, you have to lead them with affection”. With more than sixty years of experience in top management, he developed his own philosophy and method where leadership was concerned. In his words, “One of the qualities of leadership is to assess what is needed to get the best results for an enterprise. If that demands being a very active executive chairman, as I was in Air-India, I did that. On the other hand, in one of our other companies where I know that the managing director likes to be lone and will get the results that way, I argue with myself and decide that it will be stupid for me to come in the way when the other person has a capacity for focusing his genius and producing the results. Often a chairman’s main responsibility is to inspire respect. ‘ And then he added, ‘Don’t forget, I like people”. Every person who met him had an exhilarating experience. He believes in perfection. As he used to say, “You aim for perfection, you will attain excellence. If you aim for excellence, you will go lower”.
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