Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata was India’s pioneer industrialist and the greatest of them all. He founded the Tata Group of companies which is the largest and most diversified group of company in India, manufacturing products ranging from kitchen salt and spices to iconic cars like jaguar and Land Rover; and almost everything in between – from consumer electronic to computer software. For all his achievements, he was still a philanthropist and nationalist at heart. No wonder, he is known as the Father of the Indian Industries.
Early Life and Education
Jamsetji Nusserwanji was born on 3rd March 1839 in Navsari, Gujarat, which was then under the princely state of Baroda. His parents Nusserwanji Tata and Jeevanbai belonged to the family of Parsi priests. At an early age, Jamsetji decided to choose the business profession.
When he was 14, in 1854, Jamsetji went to Mumbai and completed his education at the Elphinstone College. During this period, he was married to Hirabai Daboo. He graduated in 1858, and joined his father’s trading firm. The “Sepoy Mutiny” of 1857 has been suppressed by the British, but the times were still not very peaceful.
While pursuing his father’s business, Jamsetji made frequent tours abroad, to countries like UK, USA, China, Japan and many European countries.
Career in Business and Industry
In 1868, Tata started his own trading company. In 1869, he came across a bankrupt oil mill in Chinchpokli. He bought the mill in Rs. 21,000 and made it into a cotton mill which he called Alexandra Mills. Two year later, he sold it at a profit. In 1874, he set up a cotton mill at Nagpur, naming it the Empress Mills.
Jamsetji had four dream projects, the first was to establish a steel plant, second was to have a world-class hotel, third was to have a great educational institution and the fourth was to have a hydro-electric power plant in India.
In 1903, his second dream was fulfilled when the Taj Mahal hotel was opened in Mumbai, which at that time as the only hotel in India to have electricity.
He worked towards fulfilling his other dreams which were realized after his death, by his successors. Tata Iron and Steel Company Limited (TISCO) which was later renamed as Tata Steel – the Asia’s first and largest steel company; and now ranks as the fifth largest in the world. The city which Jamsetji Tata founded in Jharkhand is now known as Jamshedpur and the railway station is called Tatanagar.
Later the Indian Institute of Science at Bengaluru was established by the Tatas, and it became the most prominent institute for education and research in science and technology.
His successors also established the Tata Hydroelectric Power Supply Company, which was later renamed as Tata Power Company Limited; and is India’s largest private electricity company.
Jamsetji Tata and Hirabai Daboo had two sons, Dorabji Tata and Ratanji Tata, who later succeeded as the chairman of the Tata Group.
In 1900, when he was on a tour to Germany, Tata fell seriously ill. Later during the course of his treatment, he died on 19th May 1904 in Bad Nauheim. He was buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, England.
Quotes by Jamsetji Tata
“In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder in business, but is in fact the very purpose of its existence.”
“I have always held the opinion that all taxation in India bears most heavily on the poor and most lightly on the well-to-do classes. Those whose life and property receive the greatest protection from the government have the least to pay for it, while those with nearly nothing to lose have often to forgo their meals to pay the dues of government.”
“If you cannot make it greater, at least preserve it. Do not let things slide. Go on doing my work and increasing it, but if you cannot, do not lose what we have already done.”
“With honest and straightforward business principles, close and careful attention to details, and the ability to take advantage of favourable opportunities and circumstances, there is a scope for success.”
“Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens. Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks. Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches.”
— Tata in a letter to his son Dorab about his vision for the township that later became Jamshedpur
Tributes paid to Tata after his demise
“No Indian of the present generation had done more for the commerce and industry of India.”
— Lord Curzon, the viceroy of India, following Tata’s demise
“When you have to give the lead in action, in ideas … that is true courage … and it is this type of courage and vision that Jamsetji Tata showed. It is right that we should honour his memory and remember him as one of the big founders of modern India.”
— Jawaharlal Nehru
“That he was a man of destiny is clear… his actions, the chain of events which he set in motion or influenced, and the services he rendered to his country and to his people, were all pre-destined as part of the greater destiny of India.”
— J. R. D. Tata
Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata with his unique vision and foresight, brought Industrial Revolution in India, and established industries much before the World Wars and Independence of India. He was truly a pioneer of industrial development of India. He also was a great philanthropist and most of the earnings of the Tata group were invested in Trusts used for the welfare of public in general. He also initiated several labor reforms well ahead of the enactments of labor laws, which helped in ending exploitation of labor in India.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah