Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata’s progressive, benevolent, ethical, and compassionate persona came to represent an idealized concept of Indianness long before his death. The fact that the country as a whole did not pass this utopian test was of little consequence. By that time, JRD, as he was known to both commoners and the king, had risen above the limitations of his environment.
When JRD was a teenager, his two greatest passions were flying and visiting France. When he entered his later years, he had already spent half a century leading and defining a groundbreaking business conglomerate and the other half fighting for India and her many people. The essence of the JRD story would lie in his transformation from a thoughtful if self-indulgent young man to a pan-Indian icon revered even by those who knew little about business.
There’s no denying that his status as one of the last of India’s great industrial patriarchs helped shape his mythology but to label JRD as an industrialist is like labeling Mahatma Gandhi as a freedom fighter. He saw his roles as leader of the Tata group and advocate for India as complementary, and he brought a rare dignity and a sense of purpose to both.
Although Tata was born into one of the most affluent families in India, he spent a significant portion of his childhood in France due to his mother’s nationality. Thus, French was his initial language of communication. In the course of summer vacation, he met aviation pioneer Louis Blériot, who sparked in him an interest in flying that would grow into a lifelong pursuit.
Tata spent a year in the French army after finishing his education in France, Japan, and the United Kingdom. While he initially intend to attend Cambridge for engineering studies, by 1925 he expect to take on a leadership role in the Tata family business in India. The Tata Group, which Tata’s great-grandfather founded in 1868, is one of India’s most prominent industrial conglomerates.
As one of the first Indians to earn a commercial pilot’s license, Tata was also one of the first to renounce his French citizenship in 1929. With the intention of facilitating communication between the cities of Karachi, Ahmadabad, Bombay (now Mumbai), and Madras, Tata launched Tata Air Mail in 1932. (now Chennai). When Tata assumed leadership of the Tata Group in 1938, at the age of 34. When he renamed his airmail service to Tata Airlines, he created India’s first domestic airline; in 1946, the company’s rapid expansion prompted another name change, this time to Air India.
Over the next fifty years, Tata bolstered the company’s already-establish steel, power, and hotel operations. While also pushing the conglomerate to expand into new areas like chemicals, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, finance, and IT. Aged 87 at the time, he resigned from Tata Sons in 1991. At the time, the over 80 companies that made up. The Tata Group empire responsible for roughly $4 billion in annual revenue.
“JRD” stands for Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata
For over fifty years, Tata steered the Tata Group. In 1932, he launched Tata Airlines, making him a trailblazer in civil aviation on the subcontinent. In 1938, he became the youngest member of the Tata Sons board and was subsequently named Chairman of the Tata Group.
He presided over the company as it grew throughout his tenure, and during that time. It enters the chemical, automotive, tea, and IT industries. But the business mogul did things a little differently when assessing what would help the Tata Group expand. When most businesspeople would tempt to focus on what would make them the most money. JRD Tata instead prioritize meeting the needs of his home country of India.
Reportedly stopped asking, “What enterprise is the most profitable?” in his later years, as reported in Beyond the Last Blue Mountain by RM Lala. Instead, he’d inquire, “What does the country need?” Jamsetji would “make best efforts” to meet the need “if the answer was steel, hydro-electric energy, or a University of Science,” the book said.
What does India need?”
According to Lala, JRD Tata continued in the same vein as his father, Jamsetji Tata. “The question, “What does India need?” What is good for India is good for Tatas? is a question I have heard him pose at meetings of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. I have no doubt his fellow Directors have heard him pose. The same question at meetings of the Company Board.” Lala cited JRD Tata in his autobiography.
The legend goes that JRD was fluent in French and English and that he was fluent in no Indian language. Even so, he managed to connect deeply with Indians of all ages and walks of life. Indian-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who perished in the Columbia shuttle disaster. It said that JRD’s early airmail flights had inspired her to pursue aviation. As the personification of the House of Tata’s values, he influenced countless people’s lives, from CEOs to factory workers.
When JRD Tata was born in Paris in 1904 to RD Tata. A business partner and relative of Jamsetji Tata. His French wife Sooni, nobody could have predicted this would be the course of events.
The middle child of four, JRD attended schools in France, Japan, and England. Before serving a mandatory year in the French armed forces. JRD begged his dad to let him stay in the military longer. So he could attend a prestigious riding academy, but his request was denied. JRD’s escape from the French army just in time save his life, as his regiment wipe out in Morocco on an expedition not long after he left.