Reminiscence of S.Guru Bhaskara,
an employee of TISCO (Tata Steel), Bombay in 1974.
I entered the lift breathless, after what must have been an unintended attempt at the world walking record, and said to the liftman, “Fourth floor, —zara jaldi!"
It was 9.20 in the morning and, where I work, the first three-quarters of an hour are the most tension-packed and ulcer-laden moments of the whole working day. The brass-hats spend these forty-five minutes wearing themselves to a frazzle, drafting notes, drawing up charts, compiling analyses—in short, preparing themselves in every possible manner to answer questions, anticipated and otherwise, from the operating chief who would hand down the decisions for the day.
The liftman put his head out reflectively, jerked himself suddenly to life, straightened his uniform, fixed the top button of his coat and, standing ramrod—straight, announced. "Saab atha hail"
Besides me, there were two Bombay House men and a rather impressive looking gentleman in a brown suit. Each one of us spent the next few moments privately speculating on the identity ofthe 'saab'.
It wasn't long before the Chairman entered, taking us in as he stepped in and smiling his greetings. I froze in whatever attitude the moment found me—that is, except for my knees which begana fast jig—and prepared for the longest elevator ride of my life.
As the lift rose, I caught Mr. Brownsuit looking fixedly at the Chairman. He appeared to be struggling with a comprehension falling just short of conviction, and I knew at once that he was a stranger in the House. As we neared the second floor, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he broke out with, "Sir, you look like Mr. J.R.D. Tata. Am I right?"
Amused more than surprised, the Chairman gave out a puckish smile, examined himself in the mirror as if to see whether the gentleman was right in his conjecture, and replied, "Do I really?... I wonder why!"
This put Mr. Brownsuit in a state of uncertainty, but not for long. Coming on strong with conviction, he declared, "Sir, you ARE Mr. Tata. I am sure!"
Taking this with his characteristic grace and modesty, the Chairman conceded, "Well . . . yes, I happen to be—by coincidence!"
Mr. Brownsuit was visibly moved and, touching the sleeve of the Chairman's jacket, said: "I have been blessed. Sir. May God grant you long life!"
The Chairman thanked the gentleman, who got out on the third floor. The Stigler whispered up to the fourth, my knees stopped their Morse and awe yielded to chest-swelling pride and a sense of belonging.
If you would like to read more about J.R.D. Tata , please follow the link
K.A.D. Naoroji worked with the Tata group in various capacities throughout his career. He was mainly associated the Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. (TISCO) and Tata Incorporated, New York.
When K.A. D. Naoroji went as a delegate to the Iron and Steel Committee of the International Labour Organisation at Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. in 1946, there was a discussion on the 'backward' countries of Asia. An American speaker described the conditions of slavery under which Indian workers in the steel industry were supposed to be working.
K.A.D. got up, and in his slow, gentle way described how TISCO had introduced an eight-hour day so far back as 1912, long before it had been generally accepted in America or Europe (the Factories Bill of 1911 envisioned a legal limit of twelve hours in Britain). Leave with pay was introduced in 1920, at a time when it was unknown in either England or America; in India, generally it was not established by law until 1945. A Provident Fund, at that time unknown in England and not legalised in India until 1952, was started in Jamshedpur in 1920. Accident compensation started in the same year, earlier and much more liberal than the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
He also pointed out that the Company provided free medical and hospital treatment and free schools to workers; he spoke of the general bonus and the profit sharing bonus. After he sat down, there was no more talk of slave labour in India’s steel industry.
If you would like to read more about K.A.D. Naoroji , please follow the link
Soon after Jamsetji Tata's death on May 19, 1904, at Bad Nauheim, Germany, a requisition was addressed to the Sheriff of Bombay by numerous representatives and leading citizens, to convene a public meeting to do honour to his memory. The meeting was accordingly held on March 28, 1905, under the distinguished presidentship of H.E. Lord Lamington, the Governor of Bombay. During the meeting it was proposed that a committee be appointed for the purpose of raising subscriptions for a suitable memorial to perpetuate the memory of Jamsetji Tata. A big and thoroughly representative committee was then formed and donations came pouring in from all parts of India. It was thereupon resolved to erect a statue of Jamsetji on a site not far from Esplanade House.
On April 11, 1912, the statue was unveiled by the Governor of Bombay, Sir George Sydenham Clarke amidst a distinguished gathering. Lady Clarke, Lady Meherbai Tata, Sir Dorabji Tata, Ratan Tata, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Dinshaw Wacha were also among the guests present for the unveiling ceremony.
The country's highest civilian award - the Bharat Ratna was conferred on J.R.D. Tata for his great contribution not only to the industrial development of this country but also the pioneering role he played in promoting civil aviation in India.
At an impressive investiture ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan on March 28, 1992, the President of India, R. Venkataraman, conferred the Bharat Ratna on J.R.D. Tata. The award, consisting of a medal and a citation, was presented to him amidst a distinguished audience.
The Vice-President of India, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, the Prime Minister of India, P.V. Narasimha Rao, members of the Union Cabinet, Defence officials and members of the Board of Tata Sons were present on this august occasion.
J.R.D. Tata is the only industrialist till date to have received the Bharat Ratna.
Suffering from leukaemia, Meherbai passed away on June 18, 1931. Soon after her death as a memorial to his wife, Sir Dorabji endowed the Lady Tata Memorial Trust with a corpus for research into leukaemia.
After Dorabji’s death, his successor, Nowroji Saklatvala, was eager to launch on a comprehensive cancer institute and was supported by J.R.D. in this endeavour. Nowroji invited Dr. John Spies, the Head of the Cancer Service of the Peking Union Medical College to India to report on the proposal. Dr. Spies recommended 'a small but high-grade institution', with 50 or 60 beds to begin with, to be increased up to a 100 or 150 bed hospital in course of time. The construction work for the hospital began in 1937 on the site in the vicinity of the Haffkine Institute and the K.E.M. and the Jerbai Wadia Hospital. The construction was supervised by the firm of Gregson, Batley and King. The work on the hospital was to some extent delayed owing to the death of Sir Nowroji Saklatvala in 1938, followed by the outbreak of the War. The Tata Memorial Hospital was formally inaugurated by Sir Roger Lumley, Governor of Bombay on February 28, 1941. The hospital opened for the treatment of patients on March 3, 1941 with departments of Surgery, Pathology, Radiology, Radio physics and Anaesthesia.
In December 1907, a place called Sakchi, a couple of miles from the railway station at Kalimati was found suitable for the Iron and Steel Works. In February 1912, the first ingot of steel rolled on the lines of the Sakchi. When the steel plant opened, people came from all corners of India to Sakchi and it became a truly cosmopolitan town. The plant in the town of Sakchi supplied 1500 miles of steel rails for Mesopotamia and the region.
On January 2, 1919 Lord Chelmsford, Viceroy of India, steamed into Kalimati station. After seeing round the works, the Viceroy said: “I can hardly imagine what we should have done during these four years (of war) if the Tata Company had not been able to give us steel rails which have been provided for us not only for Mesopotamia but for Egypt, Palestine and East Africa, and I have come to express my thanks ... It is hard to imagine that ten years ago, this place was scrub and jungle; and here we have now, this place set up with all its foundries and its workshops and its population of 40,000 to 50,000 people. This great enterprise has been due to imagination and genius of the late Mr. Jamsetji Tata ... This place will see a change in its name and will no longer be known as Sakchi but will be identified with the name of its founder, bearing down the ages the name of the late Mr. Jamsetji Tata. Hereafter, this place will be known by the name Jamshedpur.” So, saying he unveiled on the archway atop the director's bungalow the new name. After a couple of weeks the Government of Bihar and Orissa renamed Kalimati station as “Tatanagar”.
Tata group’s foray into the Consumer and Retail segment began with the setting up of Tata Oil Mills Company Ltd., known as TOMCO. The Tata Oil Mills Company Ltd. was registered on December 10, 1917. Sir Dorabji Tata was the first Chairman of the Board.
The Company put up its first factory at Tatapuram with the main purpose of extracting oil from copra and seeds. When it was found that the Company could not hold its own merely by working as an oil miller, it decided to utilise oils of its own crush for the manufacture of household products, such as soaps. P.T. John, a soap chemist, was the man who introduced soap to TOMCO. The first boiling of soap was inaugurated in a three-tonne improvised soap kettle by J.A.D. Naoroji, Tomco’s Director-in-Charge in April 1927 at Tatapuram, with a view to utilise the accumulated soap stock obtained in the process of refining of oils.
TOMCO were the first to market an Indian toilet soap with an Indian name – Hamam. The soap was launched in 1931 by J.A.D. Naoroji, who himself chose the name.
Besides Hamam, the company was also known for iconic brands like Moti, Okay and Cocogem.
TOMCO was sold to Hindustan Unilever Lever Limited (formerly Hindustan Lever Limited) in the 90's.
On November 5, 1892, Ratan Tata, the younger son of Jamsetji Tata, married fifteen-year-old Navajbai, daughter of Ardeshir Merwanji Sett. After their marriage, the couple stayed with Ratan’s parents at Esplanade House, Bombay (now Mumbai). A year after Jamsetji’s death, Ratan shifted to Brightlands on Marine Lines.
The couple had no children. They led an active social life and travelled a lot and spent major part of each year in England. Living part of the time in England, the couple rubbed shoulders with the cream of British society and aristocracy. They were personal friends of King George V and Queen Mary. In 1906, they purchased the ‘York House’ in Twickenham from the Duc d’Orleans. In 1915, the couple moved into the ‘Tata House’, a palatial residence on Waudby Road, Bombay. Both their houses in England and Bombay were a veritable emporium of various objects of art collected from their travel to places in India, Japan and Europe.
Both Ratan and Navajbai were kind-hearted and generous and always had in mind the relief of distress, the upliftment of the poor and the improvement of social surroundings of the masses.
On March 2, 1954, a 15-year technical and financial collaboration with M/s Daimler Benz AG of Stuttgart, West Germany was signed by Dr. Fritz Koenecke for Daimler Benz, J.R.D. Tata for Tata Industries Ltd. and S. Moolgaokar for TELCO (now Tata Motors) to progressively manufacture Mercedes Benz trucks. The product was to bear the name Tata Mercedes Benz. With the assistance of M/s Daimler Benz, diesel engined truck chassis were built at the Company's Works at Tatanagar (Jamshedpur).
The production of vehicles at TELCO commenced on October 15, 1954. On October 23, 1954, amidst much rejoicing and the anthems of India and Germany, Hans Stoehr, Manager of the Auto Division, hoisted the Indian flag while K.C. Cooper, Ag GM, unfurled the German flag. Mr. Moolgaokar, the driving force behind the project, released the first vehicle which was driven out in style by Gerald Hillier, Transport Foreman.
On September 5, 1918, at the age of 47, Sir Ratan, the youngest son of Jamsetji Tata passed away at St. Ives in Cornwall, England. He was buried at Brookwood Cemetery, near London, besides his father.
In his Will he bequeathed his property to a trust fund and noted: If I leave no children, I give the rest of the residue of my property - for the advancement of education, learning and industry in all its branches including education in economy, sanitary science and art, or for the relief of human suffering or for other works of public utility - such work is not (to be) undertaken from a stereotyped point of view but from the point of view of fresh light that is thrown from day to day by the advance of science and philosophy on problems of human well-being.
Following Sir Ratan’s death as mentioned in his Will the Sir Ratan Tata Trust was formed on September 10, 1919. The Sir Ratan Tata Trust is one of the oldest philanthropic institutions in India, and has played a pioneering role in changing traditional ideas of charity.
Jamsetji was inspired to set up an iron and steel company, when he attended a lecture by Thomas Carlyle on a trip to Manchester.
The moment Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, liberalised the mining laws in 1899, Jamsetji set off to the United States and visited the firm of Kennedy, Sahlin and Company Ltd. Julian Kennedy suggested the name of Charles Page Perin, a surveyor of international repute as the best person to undertake the investigations. Perin initially sent his assistant, C.M. Weld for prospecting iron ore of requisite quality for the Iron and Steel Works. Dorabji, joined C.M. Weld, in this search. Their extensive search led them to a place called Sakchi, which was a meeting place of the two rivers – Khorkai and Subarnarekha. The actual construction of the plant began in 1908, and the foundations were started in May 1909. The original plant was not large. There were two 200-ton blast furnaces, four 40-ton open-hearth furnaces, a hundred and eighty Coppee’s coke ovens, a steam-driven blooming mill, a rail and structural mill and a small bar mill. The first blast furnace was blown in on the 2nd of December 1911 and the first successful ingot was rolled on the 16th of February 1912.
Nani Ardeshir Palkhivala was born on January 16, 1920. The year 2020 marks the birth centenary of this great legend.
An eminent advocate and constitutional expert, Palkhivala started his legal practice in the chambers of the legendary Sir Jamshed Kanga in Bombay in 1944. He argued a number of historical cases in the courts of India and abroad. He successfully argued before the Supreme Court of India cases which affirmed the fundamental rights of the minorities to establish and administer educational and religious institutions of their choice and to choose the language in which education should be imparted.
Palkhivala was a remarkable orator, whose post-budget speeches drew national and international attention and was attended by thousands of people. He was described as “the conscience-keeper of the nation and an embodiment of humility". He was a strong proponent of the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Palkhivala was appointed Ambassador of India to the United States of America in September 1977, an assignment which he held until July 1979.
He was on the board of several Indian and overseas companies. He was Chairman Emeritus of the Associated Cement Co. Ltd. and the Director of many Tata companies including The Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd., The Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co. Ltd., The Indian Hotels Co. Ltd. and several other companies. He was also the Chairman of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) for several years.
Palkhivala was also a member of the Forum of Free Enterprise, the Leslie Sawhny Programme of Training for Democracy and a Trustee of several charitable trusts.
Lady Meherbai Tata, wife of Sir Dorabji Tata was born in Bombay on October 10, 1879. The year 2019 marks her 140th
Meherbai was the daughter of Hormusji J. Bhabha, a prominent educationist and the Inspector General of Education, Mysore State.
Meherbai married Dorabji Tata on February 14, 1898. She shared Dorabji’s love for sport and travel. She was passionately fond of tennis and played in several tournaments, winning over sixty prizes.
Being sensitive and concerned about the condition of women, she championed the cause of women empowerment, strongly campaigned against child marriage, purdah system and untouchability. She was one of the founders of the Bombay Presidency Women’s Council and the National Council of Women.
Meherbai took a very active part during the War in raising contributions. She was conferred the Commander of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire by King George V in 1919 for her services to the War efforts.
She passed away on June 18, 1931. In 1932, Sir Dorabji Tata, established The Lady Tata Memorial Trust in her memory. The Lady Meherbai D. Tata Education Trust was also founded for the training of women in hygiene, health and social welfare.
Lady Navajbai Tata, wife of Sir Ratan Tata was born on September 23, 1877. The year 2019 marks her 142nd
Navajbai was the younger daughter of Ardeshir Merwanji Sett and Pirojbai. She was married to Ratan Tata on November 5, 1892, at the age of fifteen. In her youth, she was proficient at horse riding, in an age when women were rather shy and reluctant to indulge in such sports.
Navajbai was appointed a Director on the Board of Tata Sons in 1924, a position she held right up to her death on August 20, 1965. She was the first woman Director on the Board of Tata Sons.
She was also the first Parsi woman to be appointed on the board of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat.
The Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust was formed in 1974 in memory of Navajbai Tata. The Trust works together with the Sir Ratan Tata Trust (set up in 1919) in bringing about sustainable change in the lives of the marginalised communities of the nation.
Sir Dorabji Tata, the elder son of the Founder, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata was born on August 27, 1859. The year 2019 marks the 160th
birth anniversary of Sir Dorabji Tata.
It was Dorabji, with his drive and enthusiasm and aided by the resolve of his younger brother, Ratan Tata and his cousin, R.D. Tata, father of J.R.D. Tata, who saw Jamsetji’s projects through to the stage of accomplishment. At the time of Jamsetji’s death, the Tata enterprises comprised three textile mills and the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay (Mumbai). Under Sir Dorabji Tata’s stewardship were added an integrated steel plant – then the largest single unit in the British Empire – three electric power companies, a large edible oil and soap company, two cement companies, one of India’s leading insurance company and an aviation unit pioneered by J.R.D. Tata. Meanwhile, Dorabji Tata had also seen through the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Bengaluru), which was to spearhead scientific research in India for decades to come.
The name of Dorabji Tata was included in the Honours List in 1910 when he received a Knighthood, in recognition of his contribution to the industrial advancement of India.
J.R.D. Tata, the father of Indian civil aviation, formally joined the ranks of all-time great aviation pioneers when he received the esteemed Daniel Guggenheim Medal Award in Seattle, Washington, on July 31, 1989. John H. Enders, President of the Flight Safety Foundation and Chairman Daniel Guggenheim Medal Board of Award (1988), presented the Medal and the Scroll to J.R.D. Tata.
J.R.D. Tata was presented with the award for a lifetime of significant contributions to aviation and for his pioneering work in developing commercial air travel throughout India and rest of Asia.
The award presentation took place at the Pacific Museum of Flight on the first day of the three-day Aircraft Design and Operations Conference and the Applied Aerodynamics Conference, under the auspices of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
The backdrop of the stage had a Great Gallery displaying among other things, a Puss Moth and a Tiger Moth, the vintage airplanes, hung from the ceiling.
The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research was formally inaugurated on December 19, 1945 in a portion of a building known as 'Kenilworth', at Pedder Road. However, the activities of the Institute soon expanded, and this building was no longer adequate.
In 1948, the Institute moved to a portion of the building vacated by the Royal Bombay Yacht Club at Apollo Pier Road but soon this space too proved inadequate. After a careful search, a suitable plot for the Institute was identified at Colaba in 1951 on land belonging to the Government of India. The foundation stone of the Institute's new building was laid at this site by the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru on January 1, 1954.
The construction of the building was completed by the end of 1961 and was formally inaugurated by the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, on January 15, 1962.
Geneva was a special place for J. R. D. Tata as he spent a number of his holidays there. It was to Geneva that he went for his vacation in October 1993. A few days later, he was suffering from a kidney infection and blockage and was admitted to the Cantonal University of Geneva Hospital on November 4. The end came on November 29, 1993.
The funeral ceremony and internment was held two days later on December 3, 1993 at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris – one of the two largest and most famous cemeteries in Europe. Almost at the centre of the parkland stands a stone chapel where the ceremony was held. The last rites were performed in accordance with the Zoroastrian scriptures by two Zoroastrian priests.
JRD was laid to rest in a simple walnut, unembellished coffin in the granite vault of the R. D. Tata family.
In November 1916, Sir Ratan Tata, the younger son of the Founder, Jamsetji Tata who was unwell set sail on the S.S. Arabia, along with his wife, Lady Navajbai Tata. The journey proved to be unlucky since the ship was torpedoed by Germans in the Mediterranean just a day out from Port Said. The ship was sunk but all the passengers were saved. This shipwreck deteriorated his health further.
Sir Ratan Tata passed away on September 5, 1918 at St. Ives, Cornwall. His mausoleum is located at Brookwood Cemetery, near London.
The Tata Monthly Bulletin an in-house publication of the Tata group had brought out a special issue on India’s Independence Day - August 15, 1947.
One of the items featured in this issue mentions that the following Tata companies granted half a month's bonus as a special “Independence Day Bonus” to their employees:
● Tata Sons and Tata Industries
● Tata Iron and Steel Company
● Tata Hydro-Electric Group of Companies
● Tata Locomotive and Engineering Company
● Tata Oil Mills
● Tata Chemicals
● Indian Hotels Company
The Tata Group of Textile Mills will be governed by the decision of the Millowners' Association.
On April 5, 1895 a new weaving shed was inaugurated at “Empress Mills”, a part of the Central India Spinning, Weaving and Manufacturing Company Limited under the management of Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata at Nagpur. It was inaugurated by Mr. John Woodburn, C.S.I., Chief Commissioner, Central Provinces. Jamsetji Tata, the Company’s Director, read out the history and account of the Mills.
Speaking on the occasion, Jamsetji affirmed, “We do not claim to be more unselfish, more generous or more philanthropic than other people. But we think we started on sound and straightforward business principles, considering the interests of the shareholders our own, and the health and welfare of the employees the sure foundation of our prosperity.”
'Tatanagars' – were armoured cars fitted with bullet-proof plates and rivets made by Tata Steel during World War II. They were so robust, that soldiers declared them to be safer than slit-trenches during a bomber raid. Even when a 75-mm shell burst on one side of a 'Tatanagar', the metal plates buckled but did not get pierced, and the occupants emerged unharmed.;
Congratulating JRD on his appointment, Air Marshal Arjan Singh wrote, 'I am delighted that the President has conferred the Honorary Rank of Air Commodore in the Indian Air Force on you. No one reserves this Honorary Rank than you do; you have contributed immensely to the development of aviation in the country and your interest in the Indian Air Force has always been useful. I am sure that your elevation to the rank of Air Commodore, (the rank which Sir Winston Churchill held) will be appreciated by all enthusiast of aviation.'
Jamsetji Tata noticed that the city of Bombay failed in providing travellers the comforts and luxuries available in the West.
Jamsetji leased a large plot of reclaimed land at Apollo Bunder in Bombay (now Mumbai) and announced that he would build a hotel there, a hotel the likes of which India had not seen and would bring the world to Bombay.
The construction of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel began in 1898. The foundations were 40 feet deep, unusual for those days.
Jamsetji was one of the first men in India to appreciate and apply the use of electricity. While at the Düsseldorf exhibition, he arranged with a German firm to carry out the electrification of the hotel.
The hotel opened its doors to the first 17 guests on December 16, 1903.
The rooms were designed both for the man of modest means and for the millionaire who desired a luxurious suite.
When opened, the Taj boasted of a series of firsts in Indian hospitality – American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers.
On February 14, 1898, the beautiful Mehri and Dorab were married.
In 1890, Jamsetji Tata, Founder of the House of Tata visited Bangalore at the invitation of Sheshadri Iyer, the Dewan of Mysore.
It is on one of these frequent visits that he came in close contact with Hormusji Bhabha, Inspector-General of Education, Mysore State.
Jamsetji, took a great liking for his young daughter Meherbai, or Mehri as she was then called, and had a hand in the selection of her as his daughter-in-law.
Jamsetji thought that his son Dorab should make his own decision and selection without any prompting from him. He advised Dorab to visit Mysore State and call on the Bhabha family.
Dorab did just that and when served refreshments by Mehri, he predictably fell in love with her at first sight.
March, the birth anniversary of our Founder, Jamsetji Tata is celebrated as Founder’s Day by Tata group companies.
The first Founders' Day celebrations took place in Jamshedpur in 1932.
It was D. M. Madan, Chief Accountant, Tata Iron and Steel Company who first conceived the idea of holding an annual gathering that should give each employee an opportunity of expressing his regard for the memory of the genius to whose faith and judgment, energy and perseverance, the Tata group bears enduring witness.
At the same time, the ceremony was devised so as to enable each worker to demonstrate his pride of membership in the organisation.
To this day, as a tribute to the Founder, March 3 is celebrated as Founder's Day with much pomp and gaiety.