It is said
that: “Money is like manure. It stinks when you pile it; it grows when
you spread it.”
The Tatas were among the first families in
India to spread their
wealth and wisdom for the benefit of humanity.
To them, people mattered
more than profits. As a result their focus was on the value of investment,
not on the cost of investment. They did not spend their time making gold
from earth but making earth into gold and they invested equally on human
assets as on the physical assets because they knew how to transform
“THE POWER OF GOOD” into
“THE POWER FOR GOOD.” These humanistic attributes contributed toward
Tatas building a legacy on the foundation of Zarathushtra’s vision of
freedom, liberty and justice for all humankind.
In order to
fully appreciate the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Tatas represent
the spirit of adventure,” let us
briefly examine the Tata heritage of sacrifice with honesty and integrity.
1888, the Tata Mills failed to pay a dividend. The name “Tata” was at
stake. Sri Jamsetji Tata risked his personal fortune to save a public
company, displaying that people mattered to him before profits.
1924, when Tata Steel was at its lowest ebb with no money to pay the
co-workers, Sir Dorabji Tata (son of Jamsetji Tata) risked his entire
personal fortune of Rupees One Crore (About 1 Billion Rupees of today)
which included his wife’s jewelry, to get a loan from the Imperial/State
Bank of India for a public limited company to save the name of the Tatas.
one occasion, a senior executive of the Tata Company tried to save on
taxes. When faced by JRD the
executive said: “But, Sir it is not illegal.” “Not illegal, yes, but is it
right?” inquired JRD.
captains of industry believed that man was meant to serve industry, Sri
Jamsetji Tata believed that industry was meant to serve man.
JRD Tata took
this philosophy a step further by stating that: “I believe that the
social responsibilities of our industrial enterprise should now extend
even beyond serving people, to the environment. This need is now fairly
well recognized but there is still considerable scope for most industrial
ventures to extend their support not only to human beings but also to the
land, to the forests, to the waters, and to the creations that inhabit
JRD’s working philosophy was rooted in:
Preserving nature’s wealth to promote human health.
The uncrowned king of Indian Industry,
Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (JRD to the world and 'Jeh' to friends) was
born in Paris to a French mother and a Zarathushti father in 1904, the
year Jamsetji died. JRD’s father Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and Sri Jamsetji
Tata shared their greatness from the same great-great-grandfather – Ervad
Jamsheed Tata, a priest of Navsari.
JRD, the second of four children, was educated
in France, Japan and England before being drafted into the French army for
a mandatory one-year period. JRD wanted to extend his service in the
forces but the Divine Father had a special plan 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.
1938, at the age of 34, JRD was elected Chairman of Tata & Sons making him
the head of the largest industrial group in India. He started with 14
under his leadership and half a century later on July 26, 1988, left with
a conglomerate of 95 enterprises which Tatas either started or in which
they had controlling interest.
It is interesting to note that JRD, whose life
spanned the whole of the twentieth century, headed the same industrial
empire for over five decades, which he had first joined as an unpaid
apprentice in December of 1925.
to that 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) – India’s greatest gift to
the scientific world, which became the cradle of India’s atomic energy
program; and the National Center for Performing Arts.
The core of
his life’s philosophy was embedded in: “Never start with
diffidence, Always start with confidence.”
believed in pursuing his passion with compassion by stating that:
“To be a leader, you’ve got to lead
human beings with affection.”
Though he was
meticulous about the use of money and the shareholder’s funds of himself
he said: “I never had any interest in making money. None of my
decisions were influenced by whether it would bring me money or wealth.”
interest was the benefit of people – a philosophy with which
JRD guided the destiny of India’s
largest business house for well over half a century.
because of his selfless humanitarian endeavors, JRD Tata was awarded
India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna – one of the rarest
instances in which this award was granted during a person’s lifetime. In
that same year, JRD 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.
His was the
first national voice to call for family planning when his futuristic mind
enabled him to visualize a demographic death in India.
death, the Indian Parliament was adjourned in his memory -- an honor not
usually given to private citizens. His home state of Maharashtra also
declared three days of mourning in his honor when he passed away on
November 29, 1993.
JRD’S pilot License
Island of Aviation:
On February 10, 1929, JRD became the first Indian to pass
the pilot’s examination with No. 1 endorsed on his flying
license. With this distinctive honor of being
India’s first pilot, he
was instrumental in giving wings to
India by building Tata
Airlines, which ultimately became Air
He launched a civil aviation at a time when flying was a rich man’s
sport. With a humanitarian vision to knit
together, his passion for flying was fulfilled with the formation of the
Tata Aviation Service in 1932.
1948, JRD launched Air India International as
international airline. 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. His 46-year aviation career spanned an
era of the frail two-seater Puss Moth to the gleaming 400-seater giant
crowning achievements in Aviation, JRD was bestowed with the title of
Honorary Air Commodore of India. Besides having an avid interest in
aviation, JRD also had a passion for cars, bike racing and car racing.
Chawla, the Indian-born astronaut who perished in the recent Columbia
space shuttle disaster, cited JRD and his pioneering airmail flights as
her inspiration for taking up aeronautics.
Island of Steel:
In India, the Island of
Steel was founded by the “Father of India’s Industrial Revolution – Sri
Jamsetji Tata.” The annual philanthropy (love for one’s fellowmen) and
social uplift budget of Tata Steel is probably larger than that of any
single Indian charitable foundation or company. It is because the Tata
tradition is: “If we think beyond industry, we find a purpose for
industry and our industries can become more effective.”
Steel, not only steel but also men were forged in Jamshedpur. That’s why
it’s a place where India is still shining, it’s a place where the nation
of India was transformed and it’s a place that was 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. What better tribute can
one imagine for Industrial India?
In 2007, Tata
Steel will be celebrating 100 years of existence with substance.
In the 1890s
Sri Jamsetji Tata believed that the health and welfare of employees was
the foundation of his prosperity. Beginning in 1911, it was this policy of
Jamsetji that pioneered a trend of creating an 8-hour workday for the
employees of Tata Steel in India, when factories in the Western world
worked 10-12 hour work shifts.
later JRD Tata was thinking of a company’s responsibility beyond
obligations to its own 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
In 1956, JRD
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.
under JRD’s chairmanship two pioneering strokes of Tata Steel came about;
namely, a profit sharing bonus and a joint consultative council. These
measures pre-empted any labor trouble and Tata Steel has enjoyed peace
between management and labor since then and they were later adopted as
statutory requirements in India.
In short, JRD
further enhanced the Tata tradition of nation-building rather than just
building influence or power.
Island of Education:
In 1912, the London School
of Economics established the Ratan Tata Department. The following year it
advertised for a position of a lecturer in that department for which two
people applied. One was a young man called Clement Atlee, who after
careful consideration was selected for this position. About 32-years later
Atlee became the Prime Minister of Britain. Interesting enough that it was
under his government that India was granted independence in 1947.
research have been the hallmark of Tata’s tradition because it not only
provided a sound training ground for people but also a platform to raise
the social conscience of a nation. Among the pace-setting institutions
launched by Tatas, were India’s first Institute of Social Sciences, its
first cancer research center and its first institute for fundamental
research in physics and mathematics - that spearheaded the atomic energy
program in India. The Tatas were also instrumental in assisting World
Health Organization (WHO) and the Indian Government to free India from the
plague of smallpox for the first time in history.
Bangalore, the JRD Tata Memorial Library, popularly known as the
Indian Institute of
Science Library, is one of the best Science and Technology
libraries in India. Started in 1911, as one of the first three departments
in the Institute, it has become a precious national resource center in the
field of Science and Technology. The library spends over ten crores of
rupees annually of which subscription towards periodicals alone is about
nine crores, which is unparalleled in that part of the globe.
legacy of spreading education hails as Tata Consultancy Service (TCS),
which has developed a computer system to expedite the spread of literacy
all over India. About 200 million adults in India cannot read or write.
With TCS in the forefront, currently, illiteracy is reducing at an annual
rate of 1.5% per annum. At this rate within the next 20-years India will
attain a literacy rate of 95%.
for learning not only evolved around things that mattered to business such
as technology or finance; but also encompassed places, people, music,
medicine, literature, philosophy, religion, the arts and the sciences.
He was seeking the “extra” in the “ordinary” to make it extra-ordinary.
A courtesy ride to children in his car on their way to school was not just
an expression of warmth but also an exclusive opportunity to learn about
what was taught in schools – a magical moment to catch a glimpse of the
future. As a result he not only built 'learning organizations' but also
emulated one himself.
Island of Quality:
It is said that: For
children, parents help define who they are.
that the Tatas helped define the Industry of India by focusing on Quality.
With steel as
the mother of industry, education as the father and hydropower as the
child, the Tatas pioneered the family of industrialization in an era, when
these imperatives of industry were not evident to common thinkers.
that: “Uncommon thinkers reuse what common thinkers refuse.”
was one of the attributes that were reused by Tatas under the
Chairmanship of JRD because he was an uncommon thinker.
unsatisfied with the second best, his unflinching and unwavering
commitment to the highest principles and standards was the light that
forever illuminated his path, inspired his speech and guided his actions.
“When you work, work as if
everything depends on you. When you pray, pray as if everything depends on
believed that: Cleanliness is the Hallmark of perfect standards and the
best quality inspector is the conscience.
sentiment the TELCO saying was developed:“Quality
is first engineered; only then it is inspected.”
With the same
sentiment at Tata Steel they firmly believed that:
“Making steel may be compared to making a
chappati (tortilla). To make a good chappati, even a golden pin will not
work unless the dough is good.”
effect of Quality is evidenced in ALL multi-faceted endeavors of the
Tatas, not only in products and services but also in corporate conduct,
which was of paramount importance to JRD.
being the common thread, as an industrialist, JRD placed the Tata Group on
the international map; as an aviator, he brought commercial aviation to
India; and as a philanthropist, he built the spirit of Tata Charitable
Trusts to keep it live and alive.
Island of Service:
In 100 Great
Modern Lives edited by John Canning
(Souvenir Press, London), in the galaxy of personalities only two Indians
feature – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jamsetji Tata. The chapter on
Jamsetji Tata concludes with the paragraph: ‘Probably no other family
have ever contributed as much in the way of wise guidance, industrial
development and advancing philanthropy to any country as the Tatas have to
India, both before and since independence (1947).’
tradition of Service to humanity in the spirit of brotherhood is
encapsulated in this true story. One day, at Tata Steel due to a serious
accident about 75 tons of molten metal crashed on the ground resulting in
some people getting burnt.
transportation car could only accommodate 3-people. One of the three
persons chosen was a Hindu. But, he chose not to board the car. Instead he
said: “Take my half-burnt Muslim Brother first.” This Hindu man in spite
of facing the danger of death remembered to be of service to his Muslim
brother during his time of need. What a powerful spirit of reaching out –
a Tata tradition.
Chairmanship, Tatas won the National Award for employment of the
Physically Handicapped. Furthermore, during catastrophic natural
calamities (earthquakes, cyclones, etc.) in India, the Tata Group
developed a tradition in which workers and officers of its major companies
took the initiative of donating 1-2 days of their salary and the
companies matched that donation. These workers also volunteer to donate
blood and even assist in rehabilitation.
that: Common people have an
appetite for food; uncommon people have an appetite for service.
uncommon appetite for service, JRD put his own money to set up a
multipurpose JRD Tata Trust in 1944, and a few years later sold some of
his assets to establish the JRD & Thelma Tata Trust, which to-date works
towards serving the disadvantaged women in India.
one can find numerous other Islands of Tata in the Ocean of India,
I have chosen to focus on only 5-Islands to symbolically represent the
5-fingers of Tata’s hand reaching out to Humanity.
resonate with the following 5-guiding Principles of JRD:
Nothing worthwhile is
ever achieved without deep thought and hard work;
One must think for
oneself and never accept at their face value slogans and catch phrases
to which, unfortunately, our people are too easily susceptible;
One must forever strive
for excellence, or even perfection, in any task however small, and never
be satisfied with the second best;
No success or achievement
in material terms is worthwhile unless it serves the needs or interests
of the country and its people and is achieved by fair and honest means;
Good human relations not
only bring great personal rewards but also are essential to the success
of any enterprise.
Honorable Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh addressing the captains of industry,
senior bureaucrats and diplomats at ASSOCHAM JRD Tata Centenary
An article titled: “Business as a Spiritual
Pursuit”, encapsulates JRD’s philosophy, and the ethos of the Group he
symbolized, by stating that: "(In Tatas) we have retained the fire of
idealism and in its glow we have come to recognize that no wealth or power
can be more valuable than our dignity; no loss or profit can be more
critical than the loss of our credibility; no skills or qualifications can
substitute the integrity of our character."
The essence of this 'spiritual core'
differentiates Tatas from other business entities globally, as they all
must struggle to compete and win in a material world.
Over the past 100 years, the Tatas have
invested in industries and worked in areas, which focused on nation
building and industrial development, while upholding the core values
cherished by the group – nationalism, innovation, leadership, trust,
fairness, dignity and numerous others.
year 2004 is viewed as a “Century of Trust” – a half-century of
which is attributed to JRD.
Generations to come will regard the mission
and contributions of this illustrious man worthy of emulation.
As a captain of industry, institution builder,
statesman, and educationist and in such other aspects of his multifaceted
personality, he displayed courage of conviction and quintessential
JRD encapsulated the essence of "Humility"
defined by Bob Galvin: "Humility does not mean that one thinks less
of oneself, it means that one thinks of oneself less."
He touched power but remained untouched by it
because he was more interested in the Power of Love instead of the Love
conclude with two quotes from my book Bread For The Head™:
“Success is not in hitting the headlines Success is in reaching the
have reached the Heartlines of Billions; and
“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary Is that the
extraordinary know that they can make a difference.”
JRD was one
of those extraordinary individuals who made a difference in the life of
and impacted not just minds but the soul of all people by epitomizing a
way of life and a culture of business that cared for the country and its
JRD for living and leaving a Legacy of Industry, Charity and Integrity.
Picture courtesy: The Creation Of
Wealth – The Tatas from the 19th to the 21st
Century – R.M. Lala
Sources and Resources to gratefully acknowledge for the composition of
Ratan N. Tata,
Chairman, Tata Group India, and his staff members for providing me with
valuable books, pictures and information.
Russi Lala and
Dinshaw Tamboly for providing their selfless support and valuable
Soroushian for giving me the opportunity to write this article for
Khorshed Jungalwala, and my daughter Anahita Amalsad for editorial
The Creation of Wealth ---
The Tatas from 19th to the 21st Century
– R. M. Lala, India.
Beyond the Last Blue
Mountain --- A Life Of JRD Tata
– R. M. Lala, India.
Institute of Science, Bangalore
Tata Central Archives:
JRD –The Eternal
Indian Legends – Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy
Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (1904-1993) --
Corporate Legend, Father of civil aviation in India
Biography Base: JRD Tata Biography
Tata Info Tech: Spirit of the Skies
JRD Tata: A life extraordinary
This article produced for
production on vohuman.org was posted on vohuman on January 16, 2005.