Recollections


"We do not claim to be more unselfish, more generous or more philanthropic than other people. But we think we started on sound and straightforward business principles, considering the interests of the shareholders our own, and the health and welfare of the employees the sure foundation of our prosperity."

— Jamsetji Tata

At the opening of a new extension to the Empress Mills in 1895.

"To my father, the acquisition of wealth was only a secondary object in life; it was always subordinate to the constant desire in his heart to improve the industrial and intellectual condition of the people of this country; and the various enterprises which he from time to time undertook in his life-time had for their principal object the advancement of India in these important respects. To me it is a matter of the utmost regret that he is not alive today to see the accomplishment of the three cherished aims of the last years of his life - viz., Research Institute, the Iron and Steel project and the Hydro-Electric Scheme... Kind fate, has however, permitted me to help in bringing to completion his inestimable legacy of service to the country, and it is a matter of the greatest gratification to his sons to have been permitted to carry to fruition the sacred trust which he committed to their charge."

— Sir Dorabji Tata

While laying the foundation stone of the Lonavala Dam on 8 February 1911.

"...you will enter into a business career where your intelligence, your nerves your courage & your morals will be severely tested by the eventful life that you will be leading. You will there understand the seriousness of responsibility. I doubt not that my Jehangir will eventually come out successful through his high moral qualities. You will find in your path many pitfalls and temptations which you will have to shun & jump over though with great difficulties. If you always keep before your eyes Truth & Honesty, whatever happens you will come out safe; at least you will never be discredited or dishonoured."

— R D Tata

In a letter to his son J R D Tata, 29 December 1921.

"It is a struggle of which the people of this country have every reason to be proud. I have watched with unfeigned admiration the undaunted and determined stand which our countrymen in the Transvaal — a mere handful in numbers — have made and are making, against heavy odds, and in the face of monstrous injustice and oppression, to assert their rights as citizens of the Empire and as freemen, and to vindicate the honour and dignity of our motherland. The ruinous sacrifices which men mostly of very modest means are cheerfully making in this unequal struggle, the fortitude with which men of education and refinement are ungrudgingly submitting to treatment ordinarily accorded to hardened convicts and criminals, the calm resignation of men devotedly attached to their homes to cruel disruption of family ties, and the perfectly legitimate and constitutional character of the resistance which is being offered and which is in such striking contrast to the occasional acts of violence and crime which we deplore nearer home — all these, to my mind, present a spectacle of great nobility of aim, resoluteness of purpose and strength of moral fibre with which we Indians are usually not credited. I have been following with close interest the proceedings of the public meetings that are being held in this country to give expression to our feelings in this matter; but it seems to me that the struggle has now reached a stage when our appreciation of it must take the form, not merely of expressions of sympathy but also of substantial money help. And I cannot help saying that it is with some surprise and disappointment that I see that no steps have, so far, been taken to collect funds for the purpose. This is, however, a matter for those who usually take the lead in such affairs. For myself, I feel I should lose no more time in doing my duty by our brave and suffering brethren in the Transvaal and I have, therefore, great pleasure in enclosing a Cheque for Rs. 25,000/- which I shall feel obliged by your forwarding to Mr. Gandhi, - the money to be spent in relieving destitution, and in aid of the struggle generally."

— Sir Ratan Tata

In a letter to Gopala Krishna Gokhale, 29 November 1909, Bombay.

Reminiscence of S.Guru Bhaskara,

an employee of TISCO (Tata Steel), Bombay in 1974.


I entered the lift breathless, after what must have been an unintended attempt at the world walking record, and said to the liftman, “Fourth floor, —zara jaldi!"

It was 9.20 in the morning and, where I work, the first three-quarters of an hour are the most tension-packed and ulcer-laden moments of the whole working day. The brass-hats spend these forty-five minutes wearing themselves to a frazzle, drafting notes, drawing up charts, compiling analyses—in short, preparing themselves in every possible manner to answer questions, anticipated and otherwise, from the operating chief who would hand down the decisions for the day.

The liftman put his head out reflectively, jerked himself suddenly to life, straightened his uniform, fixed the top button of his coat and, standing ramrod—straight, announced. "Saab atha hail"

Besides me, there were two Bombay House men and a rather impressive looking gentleman in a brown suit. Each one of us spent the next few moments privately speculating on the identity ofthe 'saab'.

It wasn't long before the Chairman entered, taking us in as he stepped in and smiling his greetings. I froze in whatever attitude the moment found me—that is, except for my knees which begana fast jig—and prepared for the longest elevator ride of my life.

As the lift rose, I caught Mr. Brownsuit looking fixedly at the Chairman. He appeared to be struggling with a comprehension falling just short of conviction, and I knew at once that he was a stranger in the House. As we neared the second floor, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he broke out with, "Sir, you look like Mr. J.R.D. Tata. Am I right?"

Amused more than surprised, the Chairman gave out a puckish smile, examined himself in the mirror as if to see whether the gentleman was right in his conjecture, and replied, "Do I really?... I wonder why!"

This put Mr. Brownsuit in a state of uncertainty, but not for long. Coming on strong with conviction, he declared, "Sir, you ARE Mr. Tata. I am sure!"

Taking this with his characteristic grace and modesty, the Chairman conceded, "Well . . . yes, I happen to be—by coincidence!"

Mr. Brownsuit was visibly moved and, touching the sleeve of the Chairman's jacket, said: "I have been blessed. Sir. May God grant you long life!"

The Chairman thanked the gentleman, who got out on the third floor. The Stigler whispered up to the fourth, my knees stopped their Morse and awe yielded to chest-swelling pride and a sense of belonging.

If you would like to read more about J.R.D. Tata , please follow the link

K.A.D. Naoroji worked with the Tata group in various capacities throughout his career. He was mainly associated the Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. (TISCO) and Tata Incorporated, New York.

When K.A. D. Naoroji went as a delegate to the Iron and Steel Committee of the International Labour Organisation at Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. in 1946, there was a discussion on the 'backward' countries of Asia. An American speaker described the conditions of slavery under which Indian workers in the steel industry were supposed to be working.

K.A.D. got up, and in his slow, gentle way described how TISCO had introduced an eight-hour day so far back as 1912, long before it had been generally accepted in America or Europe (the Factories Bill of 1911 envisioned a legal limit of twelve hours in Britain). Leave with pay was introduced in 1920, at a time when it was unknown in either England or America; in India, generally it was not established by law until 1945. A Provident Fund, at that time unknown in England and not legalised in India until 1952, was started in Jamshedpur in 1920. Accident compensation started in the same year, earlier and much more liberal than the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

He also pointed out that the Company provided free medical and hospital treatment and free schools to workers; he spoke of the general bonus and the profit sharing bonus. After he sat down, there was no more talk of slave labour in India’s steel industry.

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