Father of Indian Industry – Jamsedji Tata

“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 Jamsedji Tata showed. It is right that we should honour his memory and remember him as one of the big founders of modern India.”

Jawaharlal Nehru

Jamsedji Nusserwanji Tata (3rd March 1839 – 19th May 1904) was the founder of TATA group, India’s leading conglomerate company. He was a pioneer figure in the world of industry. He was such an influential personality that even Jawaharlal Nehru referred him as a “One – man Planning Commission”.  He has also established the city of Jamshedpur. Tata started his journey as a merchant and went on to become one of the most important builders of the modern Indian economy. Among his many achievements, the most notable one is Tata Iron and Steel Works Company in Jamshedpur.

Tata was ranked first in “Hurun Philanthropists of the Century” (2021) due to his total donations of about $102.4 billion from the start of his establishments way back in 1892.

Jamsedji Tata was born on 3rd March 1839 to Nusserwanji and Jeevanbai Tata in Navsari, Gujarat. He came from a family of minority group of Parsees. His father was the first businessman in their family. Nusserwanji ran an export trading firm in Mumbai.

Career:  After graduating from Elphinstone college, Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1858, Jamsedji joined his father’s firm. He expanded its branches in Japan, China, Europe and United States.

  • He started a trading company in 1868.
  • In 1869, he bought a bankrupt oil mill in 1869 at Chinchpokli, Maharashtra and converted it into an oil mill – named as Alexandra Mill. In 1871, he sold the mill at a profit.
  • In 1874, Tata started the Central India Spinning, Weaving, and Manufacturing Company in Nagpur, an unusual place to choose from for industrialists. During that era, Bombay being the “Cottonpolis of India” was the most preferred place for textile entrepreneurs. But his far-sightedness paid off. In Nagpur, the abundance of farm produce, the ease of distribution, and the cheap land later led to the converging of railway lines, which further developed the city.
  • In 1877, Tata set up a new cotton mill – called Empress Mill.
  • He formed another company in 1885 in Pondicherry solely to distribute Indian textiles to nearby French colonies without having to pay duties; however, the venture failed due to an insufficient demand for the fabrics. He then purchased the Dharamsi Mills at Kurla in Bombay, resold it, and acquired the Advance Mills in Ahmedabad. It was named as Advance Mills because it was one of the highest technology mills at that time. This set up provided an economic boost to Ahmedabad.
  • Through such contributions, Jamsedji Tata shaped the cotton and textile industry in India.
  • Being a supporter of Swadeshism, he renamed his new cotton mill in Bombay as Swadeshi Mill. The objective was to provide finer cloth similar to that of imported from Manchester. During that time, India produced coarse fabric which was no longer preferred by Indians.

He envisioned India to be the sole maker of fine clothes for which the ancient Indian weavers were famous.

Throughout his life, he had 4 goals:

  • Setting up an iron and steel company
  • Establishing a world-class learning institution
  • Setting up a unique hotel
  • Setting up a hydroelectric plant

With the inauguration of the Taj Mahal Hotel at Colaba waterfront in Mumbai on 3rd December 1903, his dream of setting up a unique hotel became reality. His other 3 ideas were achieved by his successors:

  • Tata Steel
  • Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
  • Tata Power Company Limited