JRD Tata. Photo: Tata Central archive
JRD Tata. Photo: Tata Central archive

On July 29, 113 years ago , Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata was impatiently wandering the corridor next to the labor room of a Paris hospital as his French wife, Suzanne, was giving birth. A nurse handed him a baby and said, “Congratulations! Here is your bundle of joy.” Little did the parents know that one day, their son, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy, now fondly known as JRD Tata, would be awarded the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India), the Republic of India’s highest civilian honor, and become, among other pioneering achievements, India’s first licensed pilot.

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Philanthropic activities

To many Indians, the Tata Group symbolizes charity, trust and good ethics. Not many companies outside Tata Sons or the Tata Group even come close on that front.

JRD Tata was the founder of Tata Memorial Hospital, Tata Tea, Titan, Tata Airlines (now known as Air India), Voltas, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Motors, Tata Chemicals, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and the National Centre for the Performing Arts. He also laid the foundations for many research and educational institutes in India. His vision and management skills were recognized globally, and many honors were conferred upon him, including the “International Man of Management” award in 1953.

As a corporate innovator, Tata modernized personnel management, which helped shape the organization’s strategic direction. Among other progressive initiatives, JRD incentivized his workforce by introducing various welfare schemes to invigorate less enthusiastic employees.

JRD’s contribution to society

Today, adherence to employee welfare policies is now legally required of employers in both the public and private sectors. However, much to his credit, JRD voluntarily introduced a plethora of employee welfare schemes and raised ethical standards in the workplace before official reforms took place. JRD was the first Indian businessman, and Tata Group the first Indian company, to introduce a provident fund, medical services, maternity benefits, gratuities, accident insurance schemes and the eight-hour shift. The Indian government later emulated his voluntary reforms, introducing the Employees’ State Insurance Scheme of India,  the Factories Act, 1948 and the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.

While other Indian magnates were spending their wealth on extravagant homes, opulent weddings, luxury yachts and artworks, JRD Tata was plowing their profits into charitable and nation-building activities

The Tata Group contributes the lion’s share of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund. The group, which comprises more than a hundred listed Indian companies, deploys about $100 billion to worthwhile projects annually. The Tata Group’s annual contribution to CSR  is estimated at between $140 and $175 million.

The majority of practicing oncologists in India have been trained at Tata Memorial Hospital, which receives $110 million annually to pay for the treatment of both Indian and foreign patients.

While other Indian magnates were spending their wealth on extravagant homes, opulent weddings, luxury yachts and artworks, JRD was plowing his profits into charitable and nation-building activities.

JRD’s philanthropic activities have made a real difference to the lives of Indians. His contribution to noble causes influenced India’s industrial development and fueled its economic growth.

JRD Tata died in Geneva on November 29, 1993. His services to India will forever be remembered by his countrymen and serve as a source of inspiration for future generations.

Sunil Dhavala is media entrepreneur. He has held leadership roles at National Geographic Channel, Fox Broadcasting, Radio Television Luxembourg, STAR TV and WPP Group. He is also an author, motivational speaker and panelist.

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