Born On: March 3, 1839
Born In: Navsari, Gujarat, India
Died On: May 19, 1904
Occupation: Industrialist, Entrepreneur
Whenever we think of the name Jamsetji Tata, we think of the expansive Tata Group of companies which continue to rule the industrial world of India till today. Jamsetji Tata founded the vast industrial empire that has received an identity today all over the world. Jamsetji Tata belonged to a trading family and business ran in his blood, therefore it was quite natural that he chose to be a businessman very early in his life. However, little did anybody know that Jamsetji Tata would be successful in redefining the concept of industries in India and would be listed in the pages of history as the 'Father of Indian Industry'!
Born as Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata on March 3, 1839, Jamsetji Tata was the son of Nusserwanji Tata, the only businessman in a Parsi family that earned its living as Zoroastrian priests. Along with his wife Jeevanbai Tata, Nusserwanji Tata had moved out of his family to carry on his passion of business in Bombay. Nusserwanji Tata started off as a small trader, but nevertheless did quite well. Jamsetji Tata completed his graduation at Elphinstone College in Bombay, where he was known as such a bright student that the principal decided to refund Jamsetji Tata's fees once he completed his degree. Jamsetji Tata took up trading at a very early age of 14, a time when he was still studying. Since child marriage was practiced during those days, the future business tycoon got married at the tender age of sixteen to the ten year old Hirabai Daboo.
He graduated from college in 1858 and joined his father's trading firm. It was a turbulent time to step into business as the Indian Rebellion of 1857 had just been suppressed by the British government.
Career As A Businessman
Though Jamestji Tata started off working ever since he was 14, his real contribution came only after he had graduated in 1858. He became actively involved in his father's export business at a time when the business scenario in India was far from prosperous, largely because of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, which had been suppressed by the British Raj and had taken India by storm. Nevertheless, Nusserwanji Tata sent his son on a trip to Hong Kong in 1859 to expand his business interests there, a work that Jamsetji Tata completed successfully. Jamsetji Tata remained in Hong Kong for the next four years, trying to fulfill and realize his father's dream of setting up a branch of the Tata & Co. office there. The establishment of the new Tata & Co. office in Hong Kong was the beginning of the expansion of the Tata empire throughout Asia and the first step towards the creation of Tata & Sons.
By the year 1863, there were Tata offices not only in Hong Kong, but also in Japan and China. Following the huge business success in Asia, Jamsetji Tata now traveled to Europe, but unlike in Asia, he faced with a drawback in the initial stages. Part of Jamsetji Tata's aims in visiting England, apart from increasing the number of contacts for his father's export business based in India, was to establish an Indian Bank in London. This project, however, proved highly unsuccessful for the Tatas because it was not a favorable time for the banking sector, with a financial crisis hitting the markets in several parts of India. The Tata companies in India and all over Asia faced huge monetary loss after the failure of the establishment of the Indian bank.
Later Stages of Career
Jamsetji Tata worked with his father until the age of 29, after which he started a trading company of his own. This was in the year 1868, following which Jamsetji Tata gradually acquired and established several cotton mills of his own. The Empress Mill set up in Nagpur in 1874 brought Jamsetji Tata huge amounts of money. The name of the mill was so inspired after Queen Victoria became the Empress Of India. The mills made large amounts of profit, but were thereafter sold off by Jamsetji Tata for a higher sum of money. Jamsetji Tata's cotton mills produced cloth which were used in India and also exported to countries of Japan, Korea, China and several parts of the Middle East. The mills were largely established to satisfy Jamsetji Tata's business acumen, but it may be recalled that the Dharamsi cotton mill which was later renamed to Swadeshi cotton mill kept the nationalistic sentiment in mind and made use of only Indian products, particularly promoting the non-use of British raw material.
Just like it is today, even in the pre-independent era, Jamsetji Tata made it a point to look after the best interests of the workers in Tata & Sons. The Tata companies were then also known to provide the best working atmosphere for its workers. Policies which were unheard of during those times, like medical facilities for the sick and for women with children, provision of pensions, accident compensations and on the job training, were a part of the companies owned by Jamsetji Tata. It was Jamsetji Tata who appealed to the Japanese Steam Navigation Company to reduce freight charges, a factor which was largely diminishing his profits. Though it was for the benefit for the entire nation, Jamsetji Tata made it a point to spend his own money to get the case solved when his demands led to huge upheavals in Japan. Eventually, Jamsetji Tata did emerge successful in reducing freight charges and thereby increasing profits for Indian traders.
The cotton mills did satisfy his business acumen, but to remain stuck on the production of cloth was not the aim of Jamsetji Tata. His vision was to establish an iron and steel plant, a world class hotel, a learning institution and a hydro electric power project. Among his four wishes, only the second was fulfilled during Jamsetji Tata's lifetime when the Taj Mahal Hotel was established on December 3, 1903. In 1901, Jamsetji Tata traveled to Europe and America to educate himself on the making of steel. In addition, he made it a point to educate himself on the latest technological progress that had taken place over the years all around the world so that he may use it for the betterment of the industries under Tata & Sons. Sadly, Jamsetji Tata could not stay alive to realize his dream of establishing an iron and steel plant in India.
Jamsetji Tata breathed his last on May 19, 1904. He was the sole inspiration behind a group that today is one of the biggest industries of not only India but of the world also.
Post Jamshetji Tata's death, The Tata Group was succeeded by his two sons, Dorabji Tata and Ratanji Tata. One of the most affluent, prosperous and well-to-do organizations, the Tata Group is today amongst the largest and most respected companies of the world. A pioneer of his field, the vision and aim of Jamsetji Tata came to life with time as his family gave wings to each of his dream projects. In fact, such was his contribution that the city of Jamshedpur in Jhakhand is today popularly known as Tatanagar, because of the many facilities that the group has endowed the city with. Today, the group boasts of being the founder of projects like Tata Steel, the Indian Institute of Science, the Tata Power Company Limited, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and many more.
1839: Jamsetji Tata was born on March 3.
1853: He married Hirabai Daboo.
1858: Joined his father's trade firm.
1868: Established his first independent company.
1874: Set up the Empress Mill.
1901: Traveled to Europe and America to receive education on making of steel.
1903: Established the Taj Mahal Hotel.
1904: Died on May 19.