Life lessons from JRD Tata , a legendary entrepreneur

Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, popularly known as JRD Tata, was one of the most influential and respected business leaders of India. He was the founder of India’s first airline, Tata Airlines, which later became Air India. He was also the chairman of the Tata Group, India’s largest industrial conglomerate, for over five decades. He was responsible for the expansion and diversification of the group into various sectors such as steel, chemicals, automobiles, hotels, power, and telecommunications. He was also a pioneer of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, donating millions of rupees to various causes such as education, health, science, and arts. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, in 1992.

JRD Tata’s life and achievements are a source of inspiration and learning for entrepreneurs, leaders, and individuals alike. Here are some of the life lessons that one can learn from his remarkable journey.

1. Pursue your passion with dedication and excellence

JRD Tata was passionate about aviation since his childhood. He met the French aviator Louis Bleriot when he was 15 years old and was fascinated by his flight across the English Channel. He later learned to fly and became one of the first Indians to obtain a commercial pilot’s licence in 1929. He founded Tata Airlines in 1932, which was the first Indian airline to operate scheduled flights. He also personally flew many of the inaugural flights of the airline, including the first international flight from Mumbai to Karachi in 1948. He was also instrumental in the nationalization of the airline in 1953, which became Air India, and served as its chairman until 1978. He ensured that the airline maintained high standards of quality, punctuality, and hospitality, and made it one of the best airlines in the world.

JRD Tata’s passion for aviation was not only a hobby, but also a vision. He wanted to connect India with the rest of the world and promote trade, tourism, and cultural exchange. He also wanted to create a sense of pride and confidence among Indians by showcasing their capabilities and achievements. He pursued his passion with dedication and excellence, and made a lasting impact on the Indian aviation industry.

2. Lead with affection, respect, and trust

JRD Tata was a great leader, who led the Tata Group with affection, respect, and trust. He was known for his humility, accessibility, and approachability. He treated his employees as his family and cared for their welfare and happiness. He introduced many progressive policies and practices for his employees, such as paid leaves, medical facilities, pension funds, workers’ unions, and profit-sharing schemes. He also encouraged his employees to voice their opinions, suggestions, and grievances, and listened to them with patience and empathy. He was quick to spot and nurture talent, and delegated authority and responsibility to his managers and executives. He also mentored and groomed many of his successors, such as J.R.D. Tata, Ratan Tata, and N.R. Narayana Murthy.

JRD Tata’s leadership style was based on affection, respect, and trust. He believed that these values were essential for creating a harmonious and productive work environment, and for inspiring and motivating his employees to perform their best. He also believed that these values were the foundation of a strong and lasting relationship between the leader and the followers.

3. Take calculated risks and embrace challenges

JRD Tata was a visionary entrepreneur, who took calculated risks and embraced challenges. He was not afraid to venture into new and uncharted territories, and to experiment with new and innovative ideas. He also faced many difficulties and obstacles, such as the Second World War, the Partition of India, the License Raj, and the nationalization of many of his businesses, but he overcame them with courage and resilience.

JRD Tata’s entrepreneurial spirit was driven by his curiosity, creativity, and courage. He was always willing to take calculated risks and embrace challenges, and to learn from his failures and successes. He also had a long-term vision and a strategic mindset, and planned for the future with foresight and prudence. He was always looking for new opportunities and possibilities, and for ways to improve and innovate.

Life lessons from JRD Tata , a legendary entrepreneur


4. Contribute to the society and the nation

JRD Tata was a philanthropist, who contributed to the society and the nation in many ways. He was a firm believer in the social responsibility of business, and dedicated a large portion of his wealth and profits to various charitable and developmental causes. He supported many institutions and initiatives in the fields of education, health, science, and arts, such as the Indian Institute of Science, the National Centre for Performing Arts, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and the Tata Trusts. He also promoted sports, culture, and environmental conservation, and sponsored many athletes, artists, and activists. He also played an active role in the Indian freedom movement, and supported many leaders and causes, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Quit India Movement. He also served as a member of the Indian Parliament, and as a member of various national and international committees and councils.

JRD Tata’s philanthropy was motivated by his love and concern for the society and the nation. He wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of the people, and to help them achieve their potential and aspirations. He also wanted to contribute to the progress and development of the country, and to make it a strong and respected member of the global community. He also wanted to uphold the values and ideals of the Tata Group, which were based on integrity, excellence, and social welfare.

Some of his infamous quotes
  • "Always aim at perfection for only then will you achieve excellence."
  • "I do not want India to be an economic superpower. I want India to be a happy country."
  • "Uncommon thinkers reuse what common thinkers refuse."
  • "Money is like manure. It stinks when you pile it; it grows when you spread it."
  • "To be a leader, you have to lead human beings with affection."
  • "Live Life a little dangerously."
  • "Quality is first engineered; only then it is inspected."
  • “If you want excellence, you must aim at perfection. It makes you go into detail that you can avoid. It takes a lot of energy out of you but that’s the only way you finally actually achieve excellence. So in that sense, being finicky is essential.”
  • "Making steel may be compared to making a chappati. To make a good chappati, even a golden pin will not work unless the dough is good."
  • "Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without deep thought and hard work."