On this day, July 29, 1904, the enterprising legend was born who started working at TATA (his uncle Jamsetji Tata’s firm) as an unpaid intern only to grow into the founder of the prestigious Tata Group. Being a French citizen by birth, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, the man behind the mammoth Tata Empire, embraced Indian citizenship to expand an industrial group of 14 enterprises with a net worth of $100 million into a conglomeration of 95 enterprises of the staggering net worth of US $5 billion. Though in person he may not be around, but his achievements leave an everlasting impact.
While his zeal for flying is a less known fact, there are many others which detail the life of this high aiming man who wrote a new chapter in the history of the Tata family. Here is a collection of less known interesting facts about JRD Tata or “Jeh” as his friends lovingly called him.
Date of Birth: July 29, 1904
Net Worth: $1 Billion
Died: November 29, 1993
1. Louis Bleriot, the first man to fly over The English Channel, provoked and left the fifteen-year-old boy J.R.D. Tata passionate for flying and this dream of his was fulfilled after ten years. As a result, J.R.D.Tata prior transforming himself into business tycoon was the first one to get a pilot license bearing No.1 in 1929 in India. He was the first pilot of India and later gave wings to his dream by establishing Tata Airlines. In 1988, after 50 years of leadership of the group he received Guggenheim Medal for his contribution to the aviation industry. Later the Tata Aviation service was transformed into the presently renowned Air India, in 1946. Soon after two years after attaining independence Government of India took 49% of the company and extended it with the option to obtain an additional 2%.
2. J.R.D. Tata personifies simplicity. When his counterparts and other entrepreneurs worried about security and resorted to several methods to fulfil necessary protection steps, he stood apart and told “Nobody will kidnap me, for nobody will want a ransom in rupees!” on a lighter note. Moreover, he resided amidst the greenery yet in a bungalow but not a skyscraper. When he was asked how the small room served him as anybody in his position may dwell in a bigger one, he readily told them “It suffices me.”
3. Though his formal education was limited, his greatest contribution to the management has been “encouraging his employees.” As a Chairman he dealt with each individual in a prescribed manner to derive the best out of them. As Chairperson he also admits that in this process you may result in suppressing yourself, but it is essential to lead men because men need affection. Today the Tata Group stands at over 581,000 employees across 150 odd countries.
4. The Chairman inspires his employees to respect him, and he was a people man and loves staying as he likes them. “Not excellence. Perfection. You aim for perfection; you will attain excellence. If you aim for excellence, you will go lower” are his words to motivate people around him. An “Employee association with management” a program initiated by J.R.D. Tata in 1956 to give employees an opportunity to speak up in the company affairs.
5. Unfortunately, few members of the Tata family succumbed to death owing to cancer. As an initiative to take care of the people and prevent them from the deadly disease Sir Dorabji Tata Trust under the leadership of J.R.D. Tata set up the first Cancer Hospital (Tata Memorial Hospital) and institute in India to take the medical science to the new heights and reserved funds for advanced research and development. Also known as Tata Memorial Centre, this outfit welcomes nearly 30,000 new patients yearly, performing 8500 major operations annually.
6. The personnel department of Tata Steel came up when J.R.D. Tata revamped the industrial relations structure in Jamshedpur. As he learned the machines in the company were given extra care rather than the people working towards the welfare of the firm. Bharat Ratna was conferred on him as a tribute to his selfless humanitarian endeavours in 1992. Today, Tata Steel has manufacturing operations in 26 countries with 9.7 mtpa crude steel production just from its Jamshedpur Works facility.
7. Joining the Tata group as an unpaid apprentice in 1925, in nine months, he was inducted to the board of Tata Sons, when he was all of 22 years. As a newbie in the group, he was guided by John Peterson an ex-Indian Civil Service Officer. In 1938, at 34 years he was elected to be the Chairman of Tata & Sons, beginning the era of JRD. He diversified the operations of the firm to include consultancy services, information technology, consumer durables, industrial products, consumer goods, hotels, engineering, and power.
8. Philanthropy remained the tradition of Tatas. While the Lady Tata Memorial Trust, part of the Allied Trusts of Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, grants scholarships (both national and international) supporting research in leukaemia and blood-related diseases, the JRD and Thelma J Tata Trust concentrates on health and education of women and children.
9. UN Population Award was bestowed on JRD in 1992 for his great contribution towards population control over years, agitating with the causes of overpopulation and imparting education, especially among women and children to control the population. He also served as Founder Chairman of the Family Planning Foundation.
The Father of Indian Aviation has a plentiful to share from his kitty. He had contributed a lot for the family office and had transformed the kingdom into a US$ 119.60 billion empire. He remains in the memories till date after decades following his sad demise on November 29, 1993.
His life has not left behind memories but revolutionary events to be treasured by all Indians forever. As an initiative towards the collection of those works, he has preserved some of his conversations between himself and father through wire and letter on the Tata Archives. On the occasion of his birthday, we encourage everyone to take learning from his splendid leadership and visionary qualities that brought in a revolutionary difference to what India is proud of, even today, all summed up in this beautiful quote of his:
“Uncommon thinkers reuse what common thinkers refuse”
The post is a part of a B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or a renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian Assange, by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.
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