Recently J.R.D. Tata’s 111th birth anniversary was celebrated. An attempt is made to summarize highlights of his journey, his style of management and contribution in making India a strong nation

Few years back there was one advertisement which use to be telecasted on Door-Darshan’s National network channel. The advertise use to show the TATA’s  philanthropy and social initiatives for building the strong nation, the last punch line of the advertisement was “We also makes Steel”.  The man behind all those great work for the nation was Bharat Ratna - Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata popularly called as JRD Tata

Early life:-

JRD Tata was born on July 29, 1904 in Paris, France, the second child of Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and his French wife, Suzanne. His father was a first cousin of Jamsetji Tata.
JRD spend most of his childhood in France. He studied at England, Japan and France. He wanted to study Engineering and was about to join Cambridge, but due to his French nationality he was called to join French Army. He had served in French army during World War II. After his mother’s death at early age he was called to ‘Bombay’ by his father.

JRD joined Tata & Sons as an unpaid apprentice in 1925. He was passionate about aviation and was inspired by pioneer in aviation Louis Blériot. JRD learned flying. He obtained the first pilot license issued in India. He later came to be known as the father of Indian civil aviation.

 JRD a visionary leader:-

“What is Vision- Is vision a part of intelligence or product of intelligence? Or is vision something else? Vision is the interest or the ability to see things that are not there yet” – JRD Tata

Under his guidance, several institutions were established to promote scientific, medical, and artistic endeavors in India.

He was the trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust from its inception in 1932 for over half a century. Under his guidance, this Trust established Asia's first cancer hospital, the Tata Memorial Center for Cancer, Research and Treatment, in Bombay in 1941, it took medical science to a new height. It also founded the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS, 1936), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR, 1945), and the National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA) and the National Institute of Advanced Sciences. The City of Jamshedpur established under his guidance has become a model town for many businesses.

For six decades JRD headed India’s largest Industrial conglomerate with uncommon success and maintained high ethical standards. The expansion of group under his leadership was phenomenal and diversified. In 1945, he founded Tata Motors. In 1948, JRD Tata launched Air India International as India's first international airline. In 1953, the Indian Government appointed JRD Tata as Chairman of Air India and a director on the Board of Indian Airlines – a position he retained for 25 years. For his crowning achievements in aviation, he was bestowed with the title of Honorary Air Commodore of India. He was also a founding member of the first Governing Body of NCAER, the National Council of Applied Economic Research in New Delhi, India's first independent economic policy institute established in 1956. In 1968, he founded Tata Consultancy Services as Tata Computer Centre. In 1987, he founded Titan Industries.

Under his visionary leadership and chairmanship, the assets of the Tata Group grew from US$100 million to over US$5 billion. He started with 14 enterprises under his leadership and half a century later on 26 July 1988, when he left, Tata & Sons was a conglomerate of 95 enterprises which they either started or in which they had controlling interest.

This was only one aspect of his life. He was also a man of great sensitivity who was pained by the poverty he saw around him, a philanthropist who wanted India to be a happy country and did all that what he could to make it so. He was an early advocate of family planning, and in 1971 he created the Family Planning Foundation.

Air India:-

JRD founded India's first commercial airline, Tata Airlines in 1932 with 3 pilots including JRD himself. Flying through bad weather in the planes in those days with very few instruments was quite a tuff job but Tata Airlines maintained 100% punctuality. They had started Air Mail between Karachi-Bomaby-Madras. Tata Airlines became Air India in 1946, now India's national airline. Making Air India international was a big task. There was lot of resistance from British officers to allow Air India use Heathrow airport initially.

JRD took lot of efforts, visited various countries to expand services of Air India over there. Air India was particularly important to JRD. It was an operation in which he did had the feeling that his judgment would prevail. He use to take views from others but final decision was his

His devotion to Aviation was not only to the airline but to aviation and aero planes. JRD always wanted to make an aero plane however his attempt were aborted during World War II by British Government. British Government was shrewd enough to realize that once the Indians got the knowhow, they would be able to compete with British aviation interests.

Style of working:-

The style of working of every leader contributes a lot in success story. How did he manage his work schedule? How did he divide his time? are critical parameters of a leader. JRD was having the great gift of shifting dexterously from one subject to a totally unrelated one and giving equal attention to both. He could compartmentalize his mind and bring to bear all his concentration on the subject or the company he was dealing with. At the height of his responsibilities he had six in trays of papers. These were Tata Sons and Tata Industries, TISCO, TELCO, Air India, Miscellaneous, Newspapers and Magazine cuttings. Only very urgent papers would be kept on his desk. His desk was arranged with meticulous care
He use to visit Air India office once or twice in a week, but if required. He use to have meeting with the Manager of Air India or chief Accountant at Bombay House but if anything to do with décor of the planes, meeting with pilots, engineers, Unions then it would be always hold at Air India building

According to JRD, when you are dealing with very, very large organizations you have got to be careful that you don’t take a line where you destroy or damage something that has taken years to build. With Tata’s his idea was to bring consensus as organization was already established but with Air India he was creating something entirely new like creating history so did not have to have responsibility for the past.

Art of Management:-

“The art of management makes all the difference between heaven and hell. In heaven the policemen are English, the cooks are French, the artist are Italian, and the administrators are Swiss. In hell, the policemen are French, the cooks are English, the artists are Swiss, and the administrators are Italian” - JRD
JRD was not having any training in Management or Engineering but handling men who are so trained was his skill. According to him every man has his own way of doing things, to get best out of them is to let them exploit their own instinct and only intervene when you think they are going wrong.  He believed in including, convincing and encouraging the human being.

To be a leader you have got to lead human being with affection. JRD was known as consensus man. He use to express his views but at the same time he use to respect views of his senior colleagues. Good human relations not only brings great personal rewards but are essential to the success of any enterprises
The foundation principles laid by JRD helps long lasting growth of the organizations he worked with. 

Love for his employees:-
His focus on the success and growth of all people associated with the company earned him loyalty of all. In 1956, he initiated a program of closer 'employee association with management' to give workers a stronger voice in the affairs of the company. He firmly believed in employee welfare and espoused the principles of an eight-hour working day, free medical aid, workers' provident scheme, and workmen's accident compensation schemes, which were later, adopted as statutory requirements in India.

Tata Steel instituted a new practice: a worker being deemed to be "at work" from the moment he leaves home for work till he returns home from work. This made the company financially liable to the worker for any mishap on the way to and from work. Jamshedpur was also selected as a UN Global Compact City because of the quality of life, conditions of sanitation, roads and welfare that were offered by Tata Steel

Vision for a building a Strong Nation:-
JRD’s contribution and involvement in pre and post-Independence era in forming various policies for the nation was phenomenal. He always wish to build strong Industries for Nation. Many of his own initiatives which he nurture for years (like Air India, National Insurance, Tata Memorial Centre etc were later nationalized. He was offered chairman ship of HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) which he declined as he was already leading Air India. The concept of wasted Interest now popularly used in Corporate Law was practiced by JRD at that time, but later in the interest of nation he accepted Directorship of HAL

Bombay Plan- One more example of visionary JRD and his love for India was Bombay Plan. JRD was only 39 year old when World war II was at pick, he got together some of the top industrialist of India to think how the economic structure of the country could be recreated after the War. The Industrialist he invited were G.D Birla, Kasturbhai Lalbhai from Ahmedabad, Sir Purshottamdas Thakurdas from Bombay and Sir Shri Ram from Delhi. He deployed a force of senior technocrats from Tatas and Dr John Mathani out of them actually wrote the plan. JRD was confident about independence, he was knowing the country’s economy would have to be tackled. He was of the view that economic prosperity needed to reach not only the few but the many. This plan has created stir when it was published in two tranches in 1943 and 1944. For the first time in the world, a group of industrialist were planning for the nation. It was possible because of vision and initiative of JRD.

JRD’s Golden Rule for Success:-

JRD was known for his strong belief in the rightful path to success and rightful execution of ideas.

He use to mention one rule that was essential for anything worthwhile to be achieved –“Strive for perfection and you will reach excellence. Never be satisfied with second best.”

JRD use to believe in hard work as his success mantra, he use to put in seventy five to eighty hours of work a week. ‘Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without deep thought and hard work.’ No Success or achievement in material terms is worthwhile unless it serves the need and interest of the country and its people and is achieved by fair and honest means.
Awards and honors:-

JRD was awarded with many national and international awards. Few most prestigious can be summarized just to get a feel of his greatness and dedication in various fields. He was conferred the honorary rank of Group Captain by the Indian Air Force in 1948, was promoted to the Air Commodore rank (equivalent to Brigadier in army), and was further promoted on 1 April 1974 to the Air Vice Marshal rank. Several international awards for aviation were given to him – The Tony Jannus Award in March 1979, the Gold Air Medal of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale in 1985, the Edward Warner Award of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Canada in 1986 and the Daniel Guggenheim Award in 1988. He received the Padma Vibhushan in 1955. The French Legion of Honour was bestowed on him in 1983. In 1992, because of his selfless humanitarian endeavors, JRD Tata was awarded India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna. In the same year, JRD Tata was also bestowed with the United Nations Population Award for his crusading endeavors towards initiating and successfully implementing the family planning movement in India, much before it became an official government policy. In his memory Government of Maharashtra termed its first double decker bridge as Bharat Ratna JRD Tata Over-bridge at Pune.

End of an era:-

JRD handed over charge of Tata emperor to his successor Mr Ratan Tata on March 25, 1991. His health started troubling him with increasing age, but he was very much active even in his last days. He use to attend meetings of Tata relief committee for relief work of Latur earthquake.  JRD Tata went to GenevaSwitzerland where he died in on 29 November 1993 at the age of 89. On his death, the Indian Parliament was adjourned in his memory – an honor not usually given to persons who are not members of parliament

Rakesh Gupte

Rakesh Gupte, is Vice President with Finance & Accounts at IL&FS Financial Services ( IFIN ), based in Mumbai

IFIN is a subsidiary of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited ( IL&FS ), India

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