JRD Tata– From Unpaid Apprentice to the Chairman of Tata Group

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By A K Srivastava

The man who made Tata Group one of the most prestigious and successful industrial groups in India, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, better known as J.R.D.Tata, was a fearless aviator and a visionary ahead of his times. Born in France to an Indian father and a French mother, Tata had an idyllic childhood. His family was wealthy and had the means to fulfill the curiosities of his young mind. He began his career as an unpaid apprentice in the Indian company Tata & Sons and within years rose to the position of the company’s Chairman. From a young age he had been fascinated by airplanes and took to flying. An avid aviator, he became the first person to obtain the first ever issued pilot license in India. He took his passion for flying to another level by establishing India’s first commercial airline, Tata Airlines which later became Air India. Under his astute leadership and direction the Tata Group expanded into newer horizons and became one of India’s most trusted brands. His never ending endeavors to make the world a better place earned him several prestigious awards.

Tata Group can only do it. After the death of Shri JN Tata on 19th May, 1904, Shri JRD Tata was born on 29th July 1904. The company started production in 1911 and after 12 years in 1923, Sri JRD Tata joined Tata Company as an Apprenticeship and within a very short span of time in 1936 he was made its Chairman and the credit of Tata Group’s achievement in every field goes to Sri JRD Tata. Under the leadership of humanity, eight hours work, free hospital service, free company quarters, P.F. All these facilities were given by JRD Tata, this is because he said it is my duty to take care of the labor that we earn here, they were the leaders of it and today if we see that more than 30 percent of the Tata group industries in India are in Jamshedpur. Adityapur Industrial Area was virtually imagined by the first Chief Minister of Bihar, Dr. SK Sinha, but it was implemented by the Tata Steel, Tata Steel got it right under the leadership of JRD Tata and the master plan prepared by Ruby Master and his team. The Master Plan prepared under the supervision of the Town Planner. JRD Tata in 1973, expressed his desire to see how the Adityapur industrial area is growing because Tayo and TGS Company came in operation at that time. I was a Public Relation Officer of AIADA so I was aware of the Master Plan and I was authorized by the then MD Mr I N Thakur to sit beside the driver and show him the growth taking place in Adityapur Industrial Area, after this when we came back he shook hands with me and patting the back he said well-done, this is an achievement of my life. He was also interested in opening of ancillaries to make goods associated with Tata Steel and serve the society, take care of their workers.

He was born as the second child to an Indian father and a French mother in Paris, France, in 1904. He had one elder sister and two younger brothers. He spent his childhood in France and attended the Janson De Sailly School in Paris. He also went to the French Foreign Legion, a unique military unit in the French Army. He hailed from a wealthy family and was educated in France, Japan and India. He went to the Cathedral and John Connon School in Bombay. In 1923, he went to England for higher studies and enrolled in a crammer school. During this time, a law in France required all young boys to draft in the army for at least one year.

J.R.D.Tata served as the Chairman of the Tata Group for over a period of 50 years making it India’s best known global brand. More than being just a successful business, the group played a very active role in making the Indian society better.

He was the proud recipient of several international awards for aviation including The Tony Jannus Award (1979) and Edward Warner Award of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Canada (1986). He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 1992 for his selfless service towards humanity.

JRD Tata died in GenevaSwitzerland on 29 November 1993 at the age of 89 of a kidney infection. Upon his death, the Indian Parliament was adjourned in his memory – an honour not usually given to persons who are not members of parliament. He was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

(AK Srivastava is the President of Jamshedpur Citizen Forum. The views expressed by the author are his personal opinion.)

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