Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the Tata group, started out by setting up cotton mills in Bombay and Nagpur. He had
four dreams: to set-up an iron and steel company, a science institution, a luxury hotel, and a hydro-electric plant.
He would go on to fulfil only one of these dreams in his lifetime: the Taj Mahal hotel, near the Gateway of India in
Mumbai. The story goes that he was denied entry to another five-star hotel in Bombay (Watson’s hotel), and he built
the Taj as a show of determination and courage. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said of Jamsetji, “When you have to give
the lead in action, in ideas – a lead which does not fit in with the very climate of opinion – that is true courage
, physical or mental or spiritual, call it what you like, and it is this type of courage and vision that Jamsetji Tata
showed. It is right that we should honour his memory and remember him as one of the big founders of modern India.“
After Jamsetji, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (or J.R.D. Tata as he is known in India) took over the reins of the company and catapulted it to incredible success by fulfilling Jamshetji’s other three wishes. It is interesting to note that JRD Tata was India’s first licensed pilot and founder of the country’s first commercial airline company Tata Airlines in 1932; this would be renamed as Air India in 1946.
About two-thirds of the profits of Tata Group go to charity in the form of Tata Trust, and this is done without publicity. Talk about paying it forward!
The mark of a good organization is the way it treats its employees. The Tata group was the first company in India to offer day care for children of female employees. It was also a pioneer in giving maternity leave and the concept of a Provident Fund for employees, way before these ideas were made official in India.
Though this story may be well-known it is worth mentioning here as it shows how the Tata group has been known to recognize talent and groom it well. Sudha Murthy, renowned philanthropist, bestselling author and wife of Infosys founder Narayan Murthy, was a Tata employee herself. The days when she applied for a job, Tata had an unwritten rule of employing only men. J.R.D Tata broke this rule when Sudha Murthy convinced him to have her on board. In her letter to JRD, which earned her an interview later, she wrote, “The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in India, such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives. They have cared for higher education in India since 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender.”
When a company runs on carefully thought-out principles, it shows in the behaviour of its employees. One of the company’s policy is to never give or receive bribes, and this extends to the length of the organizational ladder. The group usually chooses to forego contracts rather than paying a bribe. Also, Tata’s business interests spread far and wide, but it has never invested in alcohol and cigarette businesses thus far.
The group has also been instrumental in building world class educational institutes like Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and many more. These contributions continue to add great value to India and its people and we couldn’t be more grateful.