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J. R. D. TataJehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (July 29, 1904–November 29, 1993) was a pioneer aviator and important businessman of India. He was one of the few people who were awarded Bharat Ratna during their life time. He was a member of the Parsi-Zoroastrian community of India.
Born in Paris on July 29, 1904, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata was the second child of Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and his French wife Suzanne Briere.
Established in 1859, the Tata Group was already India's biggest business conglomerate when Tata became its fourth chairman in 1938. He was then just 34 years old.
Under his leadership, the Tata assets climbed from Rs 62 crore (Rs 620 million) in 1939 to over Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) in 1990.
In 1939 the group included fourteen companies with sales of Rs 280 crore (Rs 2.80 billion); in 1993, the year of his death, sales were Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) contributed by over fifty large manufacturing companies, besides innumerable holding, investment, subsidiaries and associate concerns, making it India's biggest business group.
A Leader and Motivator
Leadership, according to JRD meant motivating others. 'As chairman, my main responsibility is to inspire respect.' Sometimes referred to as the 'chairmen's chairman,' JRD adopted a management by consensus style: 'When a number of persons are involved I am definitely a consensus man,' he once said, adding: 'but that does not mean that I do not disagree or that I do not express my views. Basically it is a question of having to deal with individual men heading different enterprises. You have to adapt yourself to their ways and deal accordingly and draw out the best in each man. If I have any merit it is getting on with individuals according to their ways and characteristics. In fifty years I have dealt with a hundred top directors and I have got on with all of them. At times it involves suppressing yourself. It is painful but necessary. To be a leader you have got to lead human beings with affection.'
Be that as it may, Tata spotted talent easily. And once he was confident that a manager would perform, he gave him a long rope. If they wanted to be on their own, like Sumant Moolgaokar, he left them to it. If they occasionally wanted a shoulder to cry on, like Darbari Seth, JRD was there.
The supportive climate he built developed entrepreneurs such as Sir Homi Mody, Sir Ardeshir Dalal, Sir Jehangir Ghandy, Russi Mody, Sumant Moolgaokar and Darbari Seth, and others who created billions in wealth for the group and the country.
It was an environment where scientists of international repute such as Homi Bhabha, leading lawyers such as J D Choksi and Nani Palkhivala, and economists such as John Matthai, A D Shroff, D R Pendse and Freddie Mehta could flourish.
This attitude contrasted sharply with the prevailing management styles of other Indian business leaders. Large Indian companies tend to fall into three categories: public sector ones run by the government, multinational affiliates, and those promoted by family dynasties. While the Tata Group firmly remained a family concern -- to date, four out of its five chairman have been Tatas -- JRD's professionalism stood out from the crowd.
Moreover, in most of the family firms, the top management tended to belong to the same community as the promoter family. With the Tatas, it was different: only merit counted.
Tata's role model in management was the British civil service. How was it, he wondered 'that a young Briton straight from college, could come to a foreign country and administer various departments with such distinction?' The Tata Group faced a constant shortage of managers, and JRD carried out many experiments to expand and improve the pool of talent. His first attempt -- the formation of the Superior Staff Recruiting Committee -- failed when none of the recruits stayed with the corporation.
Eventually he formed the Tata Administrative Service and the Tata Management Training Centre at Pune. This commitment to professionalism served the group well. In 1971, for example, when the coal industry was nationalised, Mohan Kumaramangalam, the then industry minister, left Tata Steel's coal mines untouched on the ground that these efficiently run mines would provide a model for the nationalised mines.
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