Captain of Indian Industry

Here is a man who raised the quality of life for Indians with his contribution.

Paris-born Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata was educated in France, Japan and England before being drafted into the French army for a mandatory one-year period. He became the first licensed pilot and went on to establish India’s first commercial airline later rechristened Air India.

His journey

Tata’s affluent Parsi father invited him to join Tata & Sons and Jehangir, at 21 joined as an unpaid apprentice. Jeh, as he was fondly called by friends, went on to serve as Chairman of the Tata group for over 50 years, making it the country’s best known brand globally.

Interestingly, Jehangir means conqueror of the world! Jeh had two sisters and two brothers; his mother died when he was in his late teens. He married Thelma Vicaji, niece of the lawyer he’d hired to defend him for driving too fast on Marine Drive in Bombay! The couple did not have any children.

As trustee of Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, JRD established Asia’s first cancer hospital in Bombay in 1941.

On a more cheerful note, do you know where the prestigious Tata Theatre is located? Spot on, yes in Nariman Point and it is called the National Centre for Performing Arts.

Fields of work

JRD Tata pioneered basic infrastructure industries such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives. The Man of Steel is also the Father of Indian civil aviation.


Tata is a household name — be it the airline(Air India), car (Indica, Indigo) luxury hotel (The Taj), hospital (Tata Cancer Hospital), IT company(TCS), institutions (Indian Institute of Science, TISS, TIFR), satellite television (Tata Sky), mobile phone(Tata DoCoMo) apparel (Westside), watch (Titan), jewellery (Tanishq), tea (Tetley) and even salt.

Winner all the way

He was conferred the Bharat Ratna in 1992, a rare instance as the award was granted during his lifetime.

The French government bestowed on him the Legion of Honour in 1983.

Tata Steel initiated a new practice in the 1970s – a worker being considered to be at work from the moment he leaves home for work till he returns home. This made the company liable for any mishap en route to and from work.

JRD was the chairman of Air India which he founded and director of Indian Airlines — both for a quarter century..