Guest Column Industry

The rich legacy of the TATA Group and its Chairmen

JRD Tata was a great manager of men.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The recent tussle in the Tata Group seems to have obscured its rich legacy. Lest it is forgotten, it needs to be re-told – both for the sake of posterity and for its current leadership. That a professional like N. Chandrasekaran has been appointed the Tata Group Chairman makes one feel cautiously optimistic about its bright future. However, the Tata Group’s rich legacy raises the bar for its Chairman himself. While the twenty-first century may be a century of economics, yet, it would also be a century where legitimacy of means to achieve an end would be one of the biggest challenges.

Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the founder of the House of Tata was a great pioneer. As told by Dadabhoy in his wonderful book on the life of J.R.D. Tata, Jamsetji believed that the three basic ingredients essential for industrial advance were steel, hydro-electric power and technical education coupled with research. The way Jamsetji gave away half his fortune in setting up the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore is venerable folklore. Jamsetji’s dream of setting up India’s first steel plant was realised in 1912 and was a pioneering effort. Later on, the establishment of the town around the steel plant which came to be known as Jamshedpur under the orders of an appreciative Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy, was a great milestone in community service. Jamsetji’s sons Sir Dorab and Sir Ratan set up pioneering trusts towards creating the social, educational and scientific infrastructure for India. Sir Dorabji Tata Trust founded the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (in 1936), the Tata Memorial Hospital (in 1941), the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (in 1945) and the National Centre for the Performing Arts (in 1966).

Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata , Jeh to his close associates, presided over the Tata Group for well over 50 years, from July 1938 till March 1991. The passion of JRD Tata as an aviator resulted in the founding of the Indian Aviation Industry. JRD Tata was a great manager of men and matters. Under the stewardship of JRD Tata, major companies of the Tata Group were established and nurtured. In March 1992, JRD Tata was awarded the ‘Bharat Ratna’. In a television interview on this occasion, when asked by a young lady what his secret of success was, JRD Tata replied with his characteristic modesty to the effect ‘I get colleagues much more talented than I am and then I keep my ego under control while dealing with them’. Predicting the economic success of India, JRD Tata wanted India to be a happy country.

In March 1991, Ratan Tata succeeded JRD Tata as the Chairman of Tata Group. The entrepreneurial energy in the Tata Group in the post-liberalisation era under the stewardship of Ratan Tata could not be missed. After 20 years, Cyrus Mistry succeeded Ratan Tata in 2012. Four years thereafter Cyrus Mistry was removed, causing some controversies. N. Chandrasekaran should relive the legacy of the Tata Group and belie such controversies.

(The author is a Corporate Lawyer and is an author of a standard book on Company Directors.)

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 9:21:16 PM |

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