Jamsetji Tata: A visionary

Jamsetji Tata:  A visionary

The basic precept of Zoroastrianism is the maxim: Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta, which means “up to the end of my life, I will adhere in my mind to good thoughts (Humata), I will adhere in my speech to good words (Huktha), I will adhere in my actions to good deeds (Hvarshta)”. These are the ideals that guided Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the founder of the Tata Group, in building what is today considered one of the most respected industrial conglomerates in India.

Born on March 3, 1839 in Navsaari, a small town of Gujarat, Jamsetji was the first child and the only son of Nusserwanji Tata, the head of a family of Parsee priests. The foundation of what would grow to become the Tata Group was laid in 1868, by the young 29-year-old, when he established a trading company in Bombay, with a capital of Rs 21,000.

The period following the establishment of Empress Mills was the most significant in Jamsetji Tata’s life. From 1877 onwards, he was consumed by what was to be the three most important ideas of his life: setting up of an iron and steel company; setting up a hydroelectric power company and, creating a world class institute of higher learning that would conduct research in all branches of science. Jamsetji did not get to see these three ventures materialise in his life time – they eventually fructified after his demise.

Of the ventures that did bear fruit while Jamsetji was alive was the gift to the people of his beloved city Bombay, the Taj Mahal Hotel. Inaugurated in 1903, the magnificent Taj
Mahal Hotel was considered to be one of the finest hotels in the world.

In addition to the humanitarian, charitable and humble principles that Jamsetji followed all through his life, he was also sensitive to the needs and the welfare of his workmen. He knew that for a business to succeed, he needed to have a contended workforce for which he spent a considerable amount of time and money to provide a conducive workplace. Here too, he was far ahead of his times. The several entrepreneurial ventures that he undertook in his life time bear testimony of his farsighted vision.

J N Tata and Bangalore: Jamsetji is said to have visited Bangalore a few times in connection with his business ventures. In 1898, he set up a 'silk farm' in Basavanagudi. The farm was aimed at reviving the silk industry in Mysore state.

It is on one of these visits that he came in close contact with the Bhabha family.  H J Bhabha was then the Inspector-General of Education, Mysore State. Jamsetji seems to have had a hand in the selection of Meherbai Bhabha as his daughter-in-law. Meherbai married Jamsetji’s son Dorabji Tata in 1898.

Indian Institute of Science

The IISc was conceived as a ‘Research Institute’ or ‘University of Research’ by Jamsetji
in the final years of the 19th century. A long period of almost 13 years was to elapse from the initial conception in 1896 to the birth of the institute on May 27, 1909.

In September 1898, he set aside 14 of his buildings and four landed properties in Bombay for an endowment to establish a University of Science. His donations were worth Rs 30 lakh in those days.

Then Maharaja of Mysore, Nalavadi Krishna Wadiyar’s generous offer of 371 acre of land and Rs 5 lakh towards the construction of buildings and also a promise of Rs 50,000  as annual subsidy, secured Bangalore as the location for setting up the Institute.

The Tata Group today: At present, the Tata group comprises over 100 operating companies, with operations in more than 100 countries across six continents, in seven business core sectors: communications and information technology, engineering, materials, services, energy, consumer products and chemicals, exporting products and services to over 150 countries.

The revenue of Tata companies, taken together, was $103.27 billion (around Rs 6,24,757 crore) in 2013-14. The Tata companies employ over 5,81,000 people worldwide and have business interests ranging from salt to software and cement to steel.

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