Today is the 113th birth anniversary of French-born Indian aviator, entrepreneur, chairman of Tata Group and the shareholder of Tata Sons, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy “J. R. D.” Tata. He was born on 29 July 1904 in Paris, under his leadership Tata Group grew from US$100 million to over US$5 billion. He founded Tata Motors in 1945. He was awarded with Padma Vibhushan in 1955. Due to kidney infection, JRD died in Geneva, Switzerland on 29 November 1993 at the age of 89.
JRD entered Tata as an apprentice in December 1925. At 22, he joined the board of Tata Sons, the group’s flagship company, and became Chairman in 1938. Over the next 50-odd years of his stewardship, the Tata group expanded into chemicals, automobiles, tea and information technology. Under his leadership, the group evolved into a business federation that encouraged entrepreneurial talent and expertise.
JRD considered his leadership of the Tata group as complementary to his dedication to the cause of India, and he brought to the two undertakings a rare dignity and sense of purpose. He had definite ideas about the path independent India ought to take for the fruits of progress and modernity to reach its masses.
He played a critical role in increasing India’s scientific, medical and artistic quotient. The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Tata Memorial Hospital, The Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the National Centre for the Performing Arts — each an exemplar of excellence in its field — were projects that would not have come to fruition without JRD’s steadfast support.
Throughout his life, JRD touched the lives of countless people, rich and poor, manager and worker, as he became the embodiment of the principles and philosophy of the House of Tata.
He once wrote: “If I were to attribute any single reason to such success as I have achieved, I would say that success would not have been possible without a sustained belief that what I did or attempted to do would serve the needs and interests of our country and our people and that I was a trustee of such interests.”
As a child, JRD was fascinated by flying; he grew up in France watching the early flights of famous aviator Louis Bleriot. Later, JRD became one of the first Indians to be granted a commercial pilot’s licence in 1929.The first of JRD’s big adventures in business was born of this childhood fascination – in 1932, Tata Aviation Service took to the skies.
The first flight in the history of Indian aviation lifted off from Karachi (in pre-partition India) with JRD at the controls of a Puss Moth. The airmail service was the forerunner to Tata Airlines, which later became Air India.
A crusader for business excellence, JRD took pride in the fact that Tata companies were known for the quality of their products and services. As a tribute to his quest for perfection in every sphere of activity, the Tata group instituted the JRD Quality Value Award in his memory in 1995.
The JRD QV Award recognises Tata companies that achieve the highest levels of business excellence. The presentation of the award is held on July 29 each year, the birth anniversary of JRD Tata, a day on which the group reaffirms its commitment to excellence and his philosophy.
Despite his very public persona, JRD was a shy and reticent man. He never hankered after honours but was showered with them, to much bemusement on his part. The Indian government conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, upon him in 1992.
At the time, he had famously said, “I do not want India to be an economic superpower. I want India to be a happy country.”
Here is the message from Tata Group –
“…One must forever strive for excellence or even perfection, in any task however small and never be satisfied with second best…”
On his 113th birth anniversary, we pledge to continue our journey as a pioneering and successful global organisation, with the community at its heart.
The future belongs to the young. We must not only trust them with responsibility but must thrust it upon them whilst they are still young and full of energy, zest, hope and even illusions – JRD Tata