Tata, Jamsetji N.

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TATA, JAMSETJI N. (1839–1904), Indian industrialist A Parsi pioneer of Indian trade and commerce, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata emerged as a beacon of hope in the early phase of industrialization in India. He was born on 3 March 1839 in the town of Navsari in Gujarat, the son of Nusserwanji Tata, whose father was a Parsi (Zoroastrian) priest. Jamsetji is also known for his nationalist ideals and his humanitarian efforts to alleviate poverty in Indian society, pursuing what could be called "strategic philanthropy."

Tata's early education was in form of verbal instruction in the Zoroastrian prayers and scriptures. Later he attended Elphistone College in Bombay (Mumbai), graduating in 1858. He acquired his business acumen from his father, starting a trading company with a capital of 21,000 rupees in 1868. Jamsetji went on to establish a cotton mill, the Central India Spinning, Wearing and Manufacturing Company, in Nagpur, Maharashtra, in 1874. This was followed by his establishment of the Empress Mills in Bombay on 1 January 1877, coinciding with the proclamation of Queen Victoria as the empress of India.

The last two decades of his life helped shape the course of industrialization and modernization in India, in terms of the iron and steel industries, hydroelectric power generation, and the establishment of educational institutions to promote science and technology. Though steel production started in 1912 and hydroelectric power generation in 1915, almost a decade after his death, they were visualized during his lifetime; in 1901 he had begun organizing the first large-scale ironworks in India. His son Dorabji J. Tata expanded the business under the name Tata and Sons.

Jamsetji Tata is also considered a forerunner in ushering in a professional code of conduct in the management of industries, including a provident fund for employees, decent working conditions, and management by a managing director and a board in an age of family oligarchs. Tata's city of Jamshedpur remains a classic example of the realization of his concept of capital-intensive heavy industries, blended with a modern industrial township.

Tata's Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore (Karnataka), which was established with his endowment, remains an outstanding symbol of corporate philosophy and citizenship. It was set up after an ideological battle with the colonial regime under Viceroy Lord Curzon, who questioned the academic credentials of Indian students. Jamsetji Tata was deeply concerned about British colonial rule and its impact on India's economy, and he supported self-rule under British paramountcy. He attended the first session of the Indian National Congress Party in Bombay and remained committed to its cause until his death in May 1904.

R. Radhakrishnan

See alsoJamshedpur


"The Giant Who Touched Tomorrow." Available at <http://www.tata.com/0_b_drivers/lasting_legacies/20040811_jnt.htm>

Harris, F. R. J. N. Tata: A Chronicle of His Life. Mumbai: Blackie & Son Limited, 1958.

"The Jamshedji Who Trounced Lord Curzon." Financial Express, 15 August 2004. Available at <http://www.tata.com/tata_sons/media/20040815.htm>

Tripathi, Dwijendra. "Ahead of His Times: The Uncommon Vision of J. N. Tata." Times of India (New Delhi), 3 March 2004.