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J.R.D. Tata – Business Tycoon Who Pioneered Civil Aviation In India


Do you know who Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata was? Or are you aware of the well-known business tycoon who pioneered civil aviation in India?

Well, J.R.D. Tata is the one we are talking about. J.R.D. Tata was a popular aviator and entrepreneur. He is most well-remembered for being the father of Indian civil aviation and for his work as the Tata Group Chairman.

The reason we call him revolutionary because his vision went much beyond profitability. He led the Tata Group to huge success but never compromised on his ethics. He was a trailblazer for setting the company’s moral standards so high that countless lives were benefitted and continue to benefit from it.

J.R.D. Tata – Business Tycoon Who Pioneered Civil Aviation In India
Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (29 July 1904 – 29 November 1993)

Quick Facts About J.R.D. Tata

    • Full Name: Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata
    • Also Known As: JRD Tata, Jeh, L’Egyptian
    • Famous As: Great Business Tycoon of India, Father of Indian Civil Aviation
    • Born On: 29 July 1904
    • Died On: 29 November 1993
    • Birthplace: Paris, France
    • Education: The Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay (now, Mumbai, India)
    • Parents: Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (father), Suzanne Briere (mother)
    • Siblings:
      • Brothers – Darab and Jamshed (Jimmy)
      • Sisters – Sylla and Rodabeh
    • Profession: Aviator and Entrepreneur
    • Spouse: Thelma Vicaji (m. 1930)
    • Religion: Parsi
    • Awards: Padma Vibhushan (1955), Bharat Ratna (1992)

Early Life of J.R.D. Tata

J.R.D. Tata was born on 29 July 1904 in Paris, France, to a Parsi family. His father, Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, was the first cousin of the legendary Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata besides being a businessman. His mother, Suzanne Briere, is known to be the first woman who drove a car in India.

JRD had two sisters, Sylla Tata and Rodabeh Tata, and two brothers, Darab Tata and Jimmy Tata.

J.R.D. Tata’s first language was French, which is natural as he was born in France, and his mother was French too.

J.R.D. Tata - Early Life, Education and Work

Education and Early Work

Coming to his education, he had studied at the Janson de Sailly School in Paris and The Cathedral and John Connon School in Bombay. Besides, he joined at a Grammar school in England.

He served for the French army on two different occasions. The first time, he served in a Spahis regiment during the Second World War for a year.

For the second time, he was posted in a Spahis regiment but was later transferred to the squadron Colonel’s office. He was chosen as secretary to the squadron Colonel once the colonel found that he could read, write and also type in French & English. J.R.D. served in the army for a year this time as well.

Marriage and Family Life

J.R.D. Tata was once engaged to Dinbai Mehta. He married Thelma Vicaji in 1930, who was the niece of the popular lawyer, Jack Vicaji.

The couple remained married until Tata died in 1993. The couple had no children, so the legacy was passed on to Ratan Tata, son of Naval Tata.

Career of Business Tycoon and Aviator

Career of J.R.D. Tata - The Father of Indian Civil Aviation

J.R.D. Tata’s career began at Tata in 1929, after returning from the army and giving up his French citizenship. He earned the first pilot license issued in India on 10 February 1929. Similarly, he earned one of the first commercial pilot license issued in India in the same year.

In 1932, he founded Tata Airlines, which got nationalized in 1946 and was renamed to Air India. Naturally, JRD wasn’t a fan of Tata Airlines getting privatized and fought against the decision for several years.

It was JRD who flew the first flight in the country, carrying air mail from Karachi to Bombay. He later became the Chairman of Air India and a director on the Board of Indian Airlines in 1953. He served as the Chairman till 1977.

The Father of Indian Civil Aviation

Entry in Tata Group

J.R.D. Tata was elected as the Chairman of Tata Sons in 1938, succeeding his second cousin Nowroji Saklatwala. He held this position for years to come and was mighty successful in this role.

Records show that the Tata Group grew from US$100 million to over US$5 billion under his command.

Some of his most impressive establishments include –

    • Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) – Established in 1936.
    • Tata Memorial Centre for Cancer, Research and Treatment – Established in 1941.
    • Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) – Established in 1945.

Also, he is the founder of Tata Motors (est. 1945), one of the India’s biggest automobile manufacturers.

What makes him even more respected is that he was able to make Tata Sons massively profitable without compromising on ethics. JRD believed in doing things the right way and refused to engage in black marketing or bribe politicians for mutual benefit.

Tata Steel, under his leadership in 1979, changed the definition of “at work.” They included the time spent to reach the office, and the time taken to reach home after work. This way, the company chose to be financially liable if something were to happen to the employee during this time.

Achievements of the Father of Indian Civil Aviation

Bharat Ratna J.R.D. Tata

Here are some of the achievements of J.R.D. Tata:

    • In 1948, the Indian Air Force gave him the honorary rank of Group Captain, which was promoted to Air Commodore rank in 1966 before being promoted to Air Vice Marshal rank in 1974.
    • He won the Tony Jannus Award in 1979.
    • He won the second-highest civilian award of India, Padma Vibhushan, in 1955.
    • In 1992, he won India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna.
    • In a 2012 Outlook magazine poll, he was voted at #6 in the “Greatest Indian” list.
    • He was the winner of the 1983 French Legion of Honour.

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Lesser-Known Facts about J.R.D. Tata

Here are some of the lesser-known facts about J.R.D. Tata:

    • One of his nicknames was L’Egyptien, which was given to him by a teacher of Janson de Sailly School.
    • Although he started working at Tata in 1929, he worked at Tata Sons as an unpaid apprentice in 1925.
    • He was once charged for driving his Bugatti too fast along Bombay’s Marine Drive.
    • He was successful in starting and implementing the family planning movement in India, for which he was given the United Nations Population Award.
    • J.R.D. Tata loved bikes. Even though his father was totally against it, after his death, he bought a second-hand motorbike for Rs. 100 at that time. In his 20s, he was the proud owner of Bugatti.

Famous Quotes By JRD Tata

Later Years, Death and Legacy

J.R.D. Tata suffered from kidney infection during his final days. He ultimately bid adieu to the world on 29 November 1993 in Geneva, Switzerland, at 89.

He was at peace during his last days, and he said, “How gentle it is to die.”

To honor him, the Indian Parliament was adjourned, which is usually done for the parliament members.

J.R.D. Tata showed a way to be profitable while also keeping his employees happy. He has gone much beyond his work scope to keep everyone happy, and he will always be looked upon as the Hero he was.

Famous Quotes by J.R.D. Tata

“To lead men, you have to lead them with affection.”

“Quality is first engineered; only then it is inspected.”

“Uncommon thinkers reuse what common thinkers refuse.”

“Never start with diffidence, Always start with confidence.”

“Always aim at perfection for only then will you achieve excellence.”

“Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without deep thought and hard work.”

“Money is like manure. It stinks when you pile it; it grows when you spread it.”

“I do not want India to be an economic superpower. I want India to be a happy country.”

“Common people have an appetite for food; uncommon people have an appetite for service.”

“Cleanliness is the Hallmark of perfect standards and the best quality inspector is the conscience.”

“Most of our troubles are due to poor implementation, wrong priorities and unattainable targets.”

“One must forever strive for excellence, or even perfection, in any task however small, and never be satisfied with the second best.”

“If you want excellence, you must aim at perfection. It has its drawbacks but being finicky is essential.”

“Good human relations not only bring great personal rewards but are essential to the success of any enterprise.”

“When you work, work as if everything depends on you. When you pray, pray as if everything depends on God.”

“I never had any interest in making money. None of my decisions were influenced by whether it would bring me money or wealth.”

“If I have any merit, it is getting along with individuals, according to their ways and characteristics. At times it involves suppressing yourself. It is painful, but necessary.”

“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.”

“Productivity and efficiency can be achieved only step by step with sustained hard work, relentless attention to details and insistence on the highest standards of quality and performance.”



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Hetal Kabra

Staying positive is what makes you feel good. When such positiveness can be enthralled via Writings, you can inspire many people. I believe in spreading happiness and positivity and this is why through this platform I am able to share my thoughts and views to the readers.

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