Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata was a French born Indian Aviator, entrepreneur, chairman of Tata Group and the shareholder of Tata Sons. He was born on 29th July 1904 and passed away on 29th November 1993. He was born into the elite Parsi community of India and was the son of notable businessman Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and Suzanne Briere, the first woman in India to drive a car.
Jehangir had on elder sister Sylla, a younger sister Rodabeh and two younger brothers Darab and Jimmy Tata. His sister, Sylla was married to DinshawManeckji Petit, the second baronet of Petits. His niece Rattanbai Petit was the wife of Muhammad Ali Jinnah who later became the founder of the country of Pakistan. As his mother was French, he spent most of his childhood in France and as a result French was his first language. He attended the Janson De Sailly School in Paris. Tata also served a Spahis regiment during the second world war for a full year. After he left the service, the whole regiment unfortunately perished on an expedition to Morocco. He also attended the Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay. He got educated in London, Japan, France and India. In 1929, he renounced his French citizenship and became an Indian citizen and joined the Tata company officially.
JRD Tata has had an illustrious career spanning decades. He was inspired by pioneer Louis Bleriot and took to flying which would provide him with great joy even years later. On 10th February 1929, Tata was the first person in India to obtain the first pilot license issued in India. He later came to be known as the Father of Indian Civil Aviation. He went on to be the founder of Tata Airlines in 1932 which became Air India in 1946, now India’s national airline. He and Nevill Vincent worked together in building the same.
JRD Tata joined Tata sons as an unpaid apprentice which proves how dedicated he was even at an early age in 1925. In 1938, at the young age of 34, he was elected as the Chairman of Tata Sons making him the head of the largest industrial group in India.
For decades after this, JRD Tata was synonymous was success stories. He steered the huge Tata group of companies with major interests in steel, agriculture, engineering, power, chemicals and hospitality with utmost finesse and charted new levels of glory. He was also famous for succeeding in business while maintaining high ethical standards- vehemently refusing to bribe politicians or use the black market for financial gain.
Under his expert leadership, the assets of the Tata group grew from USS$100 million to over USS$5 billion. He started with an already impressive 14 enterprises under his leadership and half a century later, when he decided to leave his office, Tata sons was a conglomerate of a whopping 95 enterprises which they either started or in which they had controlling interests.
In 1945, he founded Tata Motors. In 1948 he launched Air India International as India’s first international airline. He was also the Trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust from its inception in 1932 for over half a century. With his guidance, it was possible to build the Tata Memorial Centre for Cancer Research and Treatment in Bombay. It was a first of its kind in the entirety of Asia.
JRD Tata’s list of achievements is not an exhaustive one. Even then, he has received multiple awards. He was conferred the honorary rank of Group Captain by the Indian Air Force in 1948 and was then promoted to the Air Commodore rank and was further promoted on the 1st of April, 1974 to the Air Vice Marshal. Several other awards were also conferred to him.
JRD Tata was a deeply private person who followed Zoroastrianism. His wife was Thelma Vicaji Tata. Unfortunately, the couple did not have any children. He passed away at the age of 89 due to kidney related complications.