“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.” - JRD Tata.
“I do not want India to be an economic superpower. I want India to be a happy country.” - JRD Tata
Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata was a visionary leader who oversaw the dramatic expansion of the Tata Group and the industrialisation of India. He aimed to build a self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-enabled, and self-made India, something he achieved during his mammoth career at the helm of the Tata Group.
He ventured into sectors such as aviation, chemicals, technology, engineering & manufacturing, cosmetics, beverages, software services, etc. which gave India the prowess to add value at scale and build the India he envisioned.
“Uncommon thinkers reuse what common thinkers refuse.” - JRD Tata
He believed industrial growth was crucial to national growth and set up TELCO, now known as Tata Motors. He founded Tata Chemicals, making India self - sufficient in soda ash, as well as Tata Consulting Engineers, a repository of engineering know-how. Foreseeing the digital era, he set up Tata Consultancy Services, India’s first software maker.
“To lead men, you have to lead them with affection.” - JRD Tata
He believed a modern India should have its own flag carrier in the sky and created India’s first commercial airline, now known as Air India, recognizing the need to build homegrown leaders to run India’s growing industries, He created the Tata administrative services and staff college, which produced the cream of India’s managerial talent.
“Common people have an appetite for food, uncommon people have an appetite for service.” - JRD Tata
He planned and executed several projects, built industries from the grassroots, and founded many institutions. They were designed with the single aim of creating a self - reliant India. He steered Tata steel and the Tata Group with a spirit of nationalism, In turn empowering India with indigenous resources and capabilities.
“Good human relations not only bring great personal rewards but are essential to the success of any enterprise.” - JRD Tata
A unique aspect of JRD’s long leadership at the Tatas was not only his ability to attract brilliant men but to give them space to air their strong opinions, long before the startup culture initiated he bought in the practice of bringing in professionals to head operations, as against usual family run business then. Countless talented men flourished because of the facilities he provided. He truly was one of the greatest and most loved industrialists, who used his resources to make a real difference.
JRD and his lineage have garnered a lot of respect under his realm. It's not just about his success or wealth, it also has a lot to do with what he has done in return, for India and it’s people. JRD’s contributions to the development of India go far beyond establishing and nurturing the country’s aviation industry or guiding India’s leading business conglomerate for 50 years. In fact, it was clear that his destiny and India’s would be intertwined, as early as 1926.
On his 117th birth anniversary, India continues to reap the fruits of his efforts.
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JRD, a prolific letter-writer, wrote over 40,000 letters during his lifetime. And often in exceptional, beautiful handwriting.
The World Citizen Extraordinaire, JRD Tata, put India on the global aviation map. He was the founder of the country’s first national carrier - Tata Airlines (now Air India) and in 1932, piloted its maiden flight from Karachi to Mumbai. Even today, he flies with us in spirit as we rise to new heights of progress.
JRD Tata believed family planning was a precondition for improving quality of life. He helped start what eventually became The International Institute for Population Sciences and initiated Tata Steel Family Welfare Program, now one of the most successful ones in the country. In 1992, the visionary, received the United Nations Population Award for his efforts.
JRD Tata gave shape to the idea that employee welfare is a prerequisite of good management. In 1943 he set-up, in Jamshedpur, a Personnel Department for the first time. This was followed by a system of joint consultation which has enabled Jamshedpur and us to enjoy an unprecedented measure of industrial peace and harmony.
JRD Tata supported the idea of setting up an institute which aims at developing leaders for the future through identification of their limits of mental and physical endurance. Established in 1980s, such a management program within a corporate was unheard of then and even today, is unique. The institute, today known as Tata Steel Adventure Foundation, continues to drive a spirit of adventure and leadership among our employees.
Livid on seeing a job advertisement posted by a Tata company asking lady candidates not to apply, Sudha Murthy wrote a 'powerful postcard' to JRD Tata, protesting the discrimination. It was the beginning of a life-changing association. Not only did she get a call for an interview, she became the first female engineer to be hired at that company.
“Jeh (JRD Tata) had this extraordinary generosity of heart. I remember seeing him, during one of those Bombay bus strikes, stopping his car to give a lift to stranded commuters. Then there was this time I went over to his house. There was a hell of a racket going on and, when I asked the reason, he said the residence staff was watching television.”
- Keshub Mahindra
Chairman Emeritus, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd
Bharat Ratna JRD Tata, was undoubtedly the most respected, admired and loved corporate leader of his era in India. He epitomised values based good governance and ‘trusteeship’ as propagated by Gandhiji.
JRD had made a fair amount of profit from the sale of a property which attracted income tax. He wanted to get the best advice on computation of the profit and the tax payable. So he desired to meet Mr. Nani Palkhivala, Director, Tata Sons, the country’s most respected authority on matters of law and taxation. As Mr. Palhivala was on tour, I was asked to arrange a meeting with Dinesh Vyas, who was popularly known as “Chhota” (little) Palkhivala which I did. Dineshbhai, as popularly referred to, was delighted that his advice was being sought by none other than JRD.
During the meeting, Dineshbhai shared the numbers. As per rules, the tax was not payable immediately, and there was some time before it would fall due during which interval the same could be invested for earning some additional return. I could see how proud Dineshbahi felt about the advice rendered. However, JRD did not appear particularly pleased. So to reassure him, Dineshbhai said, “it’s perfectly legal Sir” to which JRD replied “Dinesh I do not wish to know if it’s legal or illegal. Just tell me if it’s right or wrong?” Continuing JRD inquired “is there any clause that prevents the payment of tax before the due date. If I paid it immediately, the sum, however small, could be of immediate benefit to the country.”
As I escorted a stumped Dineshbahi out of JRD’s office, he turned to me and said, “Please do not invite me to advise JRD. He thinks so differently! Anyone in his place would have been delighted with the advice.”
-- Mr T R Doongaji
With a 40-year-plus relationship with the Tata Group, Mr Doongaji is ex-MD, Tata Services. Having worked closely with JRD Tata (as the EA to Mr Sabavala, VC, Tata Steel, who also was attached to JRD's office), he champions the Tata school of leadership.
The Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, is given to precious few citizens in recognition of exceptional services of the highest order. The inscribed words Satyameva Jayate – Truth alone triumphs, describes perfectly the life journey of the 88 year old young man performing a humble namaskar to the President of India as he smilingly placed the small platinum State Emblem of India around his neck. A journey began from childhood perhaps with words drilled into his psyche by his father, R D Tata, “If you always keep before your eyes Truth and Honesty, whatever happens you will come out safe and never be discredited and dishonoured”.
The Republic of India saluted him as one of her very best. The only businessman / industrialist ever to enter this elite group. JRD Tata’s iconic status became formalized in the history of India.
In the Tata family his role as a benevolent patriarch for over 50 years is well known. He met the highest standards of Emotional Intelligence as spelt out for the world by Harvard psychiatrist Dr Daniel Goleman in the 1990s. His EQ was exceptionally high and got him listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He followed Kipling’s words of walking with kings yet not losing the common touch as JRD was as comfortable dining with David Rockefeller as being with a blast furnace worker in a function at Jamshedpur.
But now the world has moved forward from EQ to SQ. It’s our highest form of intelligence of which emotions are only a part. In the last two decades neuroscientists have identified an area of the brain that wakes up and functions when we work on things that really matter – our very purpose in life, the values we follow, the ability to rise from failure and pain without cynicism, changing to plan B when an original idea is blocked, not causing harm, seeing the greater good over our own little interest, spreading joy and happiness. The world of Spiritual Intelligence is all-encompassing of what makes us potentially great.
In JRD Tata’s case all the boxes of SQ get ticked as he truly achieved the potential he arrived with and much more. The Bharat Ratna is but a small acknowledgement of his greatness. The millions of lives he touched is the real testimony, because his spirit lives on.
-- Mr Gautam Mukerjee
A businessman turned leadership coach, Mr Mukerjee, has had a long association with Tata Steel. He co-hosts the Tata Story with TR Doongaji and also helms the Anandini Foundation. He is also a prolific reader and explorer.
He stepped up the pace for the Indian industry by driving growth with an array of businesses. Starting with 14, he spread his wings as Chairman to pilot as many as 95 enterprises, including India’s national airline and its first digital enterprise, which is now a world leader.
Flying above the clouds as the nation’s first commercial pilot in 1932, JRD Tata opened the skies for a resurgent India that was ready to soar high with new zeal. Fuelled by his own vision, he piloted the flight of 95 enterprises within the Tata Group. In turn, inspiring many others to rise to new heights. “Always aim for perfection, for only then will you attain excellence,” he maintained. On the Silver Jubilee of his historic flight, he was applauded for his “Pioneering zeal and spirit of adventure” by the then President of India, Shri Rajendra Prasad.
JRD Tata believed that "the strength to defend freedom can only come from widespread industrialisation and technology." He certainly walked the talk; spearheading industrial growth in India. Concerned about the war against China, he rose to the defence of the nation by offering military trucks with 4-wheel drive; contributing ₹30 lakhs from Tata companies and trusts to the Prime Minister's National Defence Fund and making it possible for employees to enlist in the armed forces without forsaking pay and increments.
He was a perfectionist and he looked for talent that could be groomed as professionals and would be ready to uphold the Tata ideals of trusteeship. Tata Administrative Services, set up by him, is a fountainhead of such talent. It continues to be the finishing school for India’s managerial talent and future leaders.
Above all, he believed in welfare. Deeply troubled by the over-population in India, he was the first captain of Indian industry to voice concern and flagged it as a national issue. He successfully initiated several pioneering family-planning programmes and received the UN Population Award for this contribution.