Captain J. R. D. Tata was inspired early by aviation pioneer Louis Blériot, and took to flying. On February 10, 1929 Tata obtained the first Pilot Licence issued in India. He later came to be known as the father of Indian Civil Aviation. He founded India's first Commercial Airline, Tata Airlines in 1932, which became Air India in 1946, now India's national Airline.
He joined Tata & Sons as an unpaid apprentice in 1925. In 1938, at the age of 34, JRD was elected Chairman of Tata & Sons making him the head of the largest industrial group in India.He took over as Chairman of Tata Sons from his uncle Nowroji Saklatwala. For decades, he directed the huge Tata Group of companies, with major interests in Steel, Engineering, Power, Chemicals and Hospitality. He was famous for succeeding in business while maintaining high ethical standards - refusing to bribe politicians or use the black market.
Under his chairmanship, the assets of the Tata Group grew from US$100 million to over US$5 billion. He started with 14 enterprises under his leadership and half a century later on July 26, 1988, when he left, Tata & Sons was a conglomerate of 95 enterprises which they either started or in which they had controlling interest.
He was the trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust from its inception in 1932 for over half a century. Under his guidance, this Trust established Asia's first cancer hospital, the Tata Memorial Center for Cancer, Research and Treatment, in Bombay in 1941. It also founded the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS, 1936), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR, 1945), and the National Center for Performing Arts.
In 1945, he founded Tata Motors. In 1948, JRD Tata launched Air India International as India's first international airline. In 1953, the Indian Government appointed JRD Tata as Chairman of Air India and a director on the Board of Indian Airlines - a position he retained for 25 years. For his crowning achievements in aviation, he was bestowed with the title of Honorary Air Commodore of India.
JRD Tata cared greatly for his workers. In 1956, he initiated a program of closer 'employee association with management' to give workers a stronger voice in the affairs of the company. He firmly believed in employee welfare and espoused the principles of an eight-hour working day, free medical aid, workers' provident scheme, and workmen's accident compensation schemes, which were later, adopted as statutory requirements in India. In 1968, he founded Tata Consultancy Services. In 1979, Tata Steel instituted a new practice: a worker being deemed to be "at work" from the moment he leaves home for work till he returns home from work. This made the company financially liable to the worker for any mishap on the way to and from work. In 1987, he founded Titan Industries. Tata Steel Township was also selected as a UN Global Compact City because of the quality of life, conditions of sanitation, roads and welfare that were offered by Tata Steel.
Awards and Honors
JRD Tata received a number of awards. He received the Padma Vibhushan in 1957 on the eve of the silver jubilee of Air India. He also received the Guggenheim Medal for aviation in 1988. In 1992, because of his selfless humanitarian endeavors, JRD Tata was awarded India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna. In the same year, JRD Tata was also bestowed with the United Nations Population Award for his crusading endeavors towards initiating and successfully implementing the family planning movement in India, much before it became an official government policy.