Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata (1839 – 1904) was an Indian Industrialist. He is known as the father of Indian Industry who laid the foundation of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, Tata Group. He was an Indian philanthropist, patriot, humanist, builder, and entrepreneur who started from ground zero by setting up his textile mill in Nagpur, which laid the foundation of the TATA Group. The TATA Group now has 30 companies in ten business verticals. He is often termed as the man of steel who founded the city of steel, Jamshedpur. He was a legend ranked first in the list of the world’s top philanthropists of the 20th century with an estimated donation of US $ 102 Billion. For his legendary works, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru once called him the One Man Planning Commission.
Jamsetji Tata was born on Sunday, 3 March 1839 (age 65 years; at the time of death) in Navsari, Gujarat. He grew up in a family of Parsi priests in Bombay.
His parents believed in his abilities and made efforts to provide him with the best education facilities. He did his early education as per the British education offered in India. He started assisting his father since he was 14 years old. He graduated from Elphinstone College in Bombay in 1858.
Family & Caste
Jamsetji was born in a family of Parsi priests.
Parents & Siblings
His father, Nusserwanji was the first businessman in the family, who ran an export trading business in Bombay (now Mumbai). His mother’s name was Jeevanbai Tata; Jamsetji was the only child of his parents.
Did you know Jamsetji had three sons? Dorabji Tata, Ratanji Tata…and the Indian Institute of Science! pic.twitter.com/puu5hmUF9O
— Tata Group (@TataCompanies) February 28, 2018
Wife & Children
Jamsetji got married to Hirabai Daboo at the age of 16. They were blessed with two sons, Dorabji Tata and Ratanji Tata. When he got married, he was still a student.
Building a Successful Business During British Raj
The Cotton industry witnessed a boom when the British government established its rule in India by taking over the East India company in 1858. In those times, America was the biggest producer and exporter of cotton. But the American Civil war impacted cotton production and export. That is when the Britishers eyed India for its cotton demands. They began buying cotton from Indian producers under their monopoly. The demand for cotton in India shot up, which remained high even after the American Civil War was over. In the same year (1858), Jamsetji joined his father’s export trading business in Bombay. This time, he was more than just a helping hand. He started participating in business operations and helped his father in expanding the business. He worked hard to establish branches of his father’s business in Europe, Japan, China, and the United States. Once, his father sent him to Hong Kong to learn the opium trade. On this trip, he witnessed the boom in the textile industry. He already knew that India could become a leading cotton producer and exporter. It was evident to him by three factors:
- India had vast fertile lands to produce a hefty amount of cotton.
- The country had a decent population to provide for labour to harvest cotton.
- And the well-connected seaports for feasible cotton and textile export.
Jamsetji decided to invest in India’s potential and was thrilled by the idea of starting his own business.
Laying the Foundation of TATA Group
In 1869, Jamsetji finally decided to commence his first business venture. For this, he bought a bankrupt oil mill in Chinchpokli, a neighbourhood in South Mumbai. He converted it into a cotton trading mill and named it Alexandra Mills. With a minimum capital investment of Rs. 21,000, it took him a year to turn it into a profitable textile trading firm. He ran this mill for two years and then sold it to a cotton merchant at a profit. In 1874, he planned to commence a textile manufacturing unit and chose Nagpur as its physical location. Bombayites criticised him for choosing Nagpur over Bombay for commencing his mill. But Jamsetji knew what he was doing as he did a thorough research about establishing a textile manufacturing unit in Nagpur before stepping into this business. He took his time to visit the western countries and study their textile production models. He made trips to England, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and Syria to study the upgraded industrial ecosystem, which was way more advanced than India. There, he also witnessed the potential of the railway network and how it could be used as an effective means of transport. On the other hand, India severely lacked infrastructure, and Jamsetji came up with moves to overcome these hurdles. With all the knowledge gained from his research, he chose Nagpur because it was located in a cotton-producing district, which was beneficial for his textile unit. Nagpur was over 800 Kms from ports in Mumbai, which made it seem challenging to transport production. To combat this hurdle, he relied on the newly developed railway network. With all these factors in mind, he laid the foundation of the TATA Group with his Empress Mills in Nagpur, which became a success.
New Business Verticals
After his success in the Textile Industry, he began working on new business verticals with his sons. In 1901, Jamsetji and his sons (Dorabji Tata and Sir Ratanji Tata) started working on the first large-scale ironworks project in India, now known as Tata Steel. His sons set up this plant in Sakchi, Jharkhand. Later, this village developed and merged into Jamshedpur, also known as Tatanagar. The other dream that he had, was building a hotel. This hotel was inaugurated in Mumbai on 3rd December 1903 and was named as Taj Mahal Hotel.
A Businessman With a Big Heart
Jamsetji Tata was not a businessman, working with the sole intention of earning profits. Instead, he was a humanist who worked for the welfare of the masses and paid attention to improvising labour protection policies.
He was a man who introduced properly ventilated workplaces, reduced working hours, events like a sports day, provided free medical help for his workers and also started a creche for young working woman.
Watch: The life and times of Jamsetji Tata, whose philosophy and values continue to guide the Tata group #JNTata #FoundersDay pic.twitter.com/XbKTfmpH3X
— Tata Group (@TataCompanies) March 3, 2017
To cover for their retirement, he was the first person to implement provident fund schemes and gratuity plans to ensure the welfare of the workers. He introduced a pension fund in 1886 to cover up for his workers even after their retirement. Later, he realised the importance of accident compensation and introduced the same in 1895. He initiated these changes when slavery and ill-treatment were the norms followed worldwide for labour. Thus, he was ahead of his competition in terms of revenue and workforce loyalty. On the 183rd birth anniversary of Jamsetji Tata, Ratan Tata paid his tribute to the legend and tweeted about his values and ethics.
Mr. Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata has provided us with his inspiration, his ethics, values and selflessness which have provided dignity and livelihood to thousands of citizens. My best wishes go out to all the Tata group employees on the birth anniversary of our founder. pic.twitter.com/v8YXYluIZS
— Ratan N. Tata (@RNTata2000) March 3, 2022
Not everyone knows that Jamsetji was the top philanthropist of the last century, with an estimated donation of US $ 102.4 Billion; this amount is considered way higher compared to the topmost philanthropist in modern times.
In 1900, Jamsetji went on a business trip to Germany, where he fell ill. His age was 65 years when he died on 19 May 1904 in Bad Nauheim, Germany. He was buried in the Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, England
- He wanted to achieve four things in life: Setting up an iron and steel company, creating a world-class learning institute, building a hotel, and setting up a hydroelectric plant.
- In his leisure time, he loved to read various books, novels, and scriptures.
- He installed the first humidifiers and fire sprinklers in India.
- His family came from the minority community of Zoroastrians who came to India from Iran.
- He was a great supporter of the Swadeshi movement and created a mill in 1886 and named it Svadeshi Mill.
- One of the Founders of the Indian National Congress, Sir Dinshaw Edulji Wacha, wrote Jamsetji’s biography as The Life and Life Work of J.N. Tata in 1915.
- His second biography was written by R.M. Lala (2006), titled For the love of India: The Life and Times of Jamsetji Tata.
- He supported the development of new vaccines with the bubonic plague vaccine and took the first dose himself.
- The Cricket Club of India with solar rooftops is a realization of his dream of a greener Mumbai.
- He created the roadmap for today’s Mumbai.
- His company Tata Steel supported the construction of some of the major infrastructure developments in the country including the sea link of Mumbai and the Hawda Bridge of Kolkata.
- Today’s famous Mysore silk evolved from his experiment with sericulture.
How does a man born in 1839 be a part of our lives even today? On our Founder Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata's 183rd birth anniversary, we celebrate the visionary whose #LegendLivesOn. #JNTata #ThisIsTata pic.twitter.com/RDSN3PzXAM
— Tata Group (@TataCompanies) March 2, 2022