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JRD Tata: Pioneer of civil aviation in India

By Vanshika Garg
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The French-born Indian, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata or JRD Tata as we generally refer to him, was born on July 29, 1904, to Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and Suzanne Briere. From being an able entrepreneur to becoming the first licenced pilot in India, there is hardly anything that he did not achieve in his life. During his days, he was responsible for scaling the Tata Group to new heights and reshape the Indian aviation and industrial ring.

A visionary in his own right, JRD Tata died on November 29, 1993 in Geneva, Switzerland, leaving behind a legacy that will shine on for ages to come.

Marking JRD Tata’s 25th Death Anniversary, let’s look at some of his lesser known facts

In a first, he pioneered the system of developing ’employee welfare schemes’ in corporate India and steered the principles of an eight-hour working day, free medical aid, workers’ provident fund and accident compensation schemes, these were later adopted by the government as statutory requirements in India.

JRD Tata is best known for scaling the operations of Tata Group. After all, he was responsible for founding the successful Tata Consultancy Service, Tata Motors, Titan Industries, Tata Salt, Voltas and Air India.

At the age of 34, he was elected Chairman of Tata & Sons in 1938, making him the youngest head of the largest industrial group in India.

When he started, he had 14 enterprises which expanded to a conglomerate of 95 enterprises half a centuary later.

He founded Tata Airlines which became Air India in 1946. In 1948, he established Air India International as India’s first international airline.

As chairman of Air India, JRD Tata would take personal interest in even minute issues like a dirty toilet inside the aircraft, wordings on Air India hoardings or the level to which wine was poured into a wine glass.

He was promoted to the Air Commodore rank (equivalent to the rank of Brigadier) and was then promoted to the Air Vice Marshal rank in 1974.

JRD Tata is one of the few industrialists who has been recognised with the highest Indian civilian awards – Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan. He was also awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1983.

Did you know that Kalpana Chawla had also found a role model in JRD Tata? Worth mentioning that she had carried a picture of him while on a space mission.


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