Jamshedji Tata Biography – Indian Industrialist, Philanthropist, Tata, Legacy

Jamshedji Tata biography
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Jamshedji Tata Biography and Legacy

Jamshedji Tata was an Indian industrialist who founded the Tata Group, which is now India’s biggest conglomerate company.

He also established the city of Jamshedpur in the state of Jharkhand, which has now become the largest and most populous city of the state.

Tata is now widely regarded as a pioneer, visionary, and one of the founders of modern India.

Early Life

Jamshedji Tata was born on 3rd March 1839 in the city of Navsari, Gujarat (then part of Bombay Presidency), to Nusserwanji and Jeevanbai Tata.

The Tatas belonged to the minority group of Zoroastrians, also called Parsees, who came to India after fleeing persecution in Iran.

Tata was born into a family of priests, who were poor but respected. And in this family of priests, his father, Nusserwanji, became the first businessman, thereby breaking the family’s tradition. Nusserwanji established an export trading firm in Mumbai.


From an early age, Tata’s parents noticed that their son had a gift for mental arithmetic. This encouraged them to provide the young Tata with a formal western education, which was against the norm among Zoroastrians.

Jamshedji Tata was later sent to Bombay to pursue a more modern education. In 1853, Tata, aged 14, came to Bombay and joined his father. He enrolled at Elphinstone College for his higher education.

While still a student, Tata was married to Hirabai Daboo, with whom he would go on to have two daughters and two sons.

Joining His Father’s Business

In 1858, Jamshedji Tata, aged 18, completed his studies and graduated as a Green Scholar. He then began working in his father’s export-trading company, where he would go on to assist in establishing branches in Europe, America, China, and Japan.

Nusserwanji eventually sent Tata to China to explore the details of the opium trade and other potential business opportunities. Tata traveled around China and eventually came to the conclusion that the cotton industry was booming, opening up a great opportunity for them to make a handsome profit.

Starting His Own Business

In 1868, Jamshedji Tata, aged 29, decided to leave his father’s company in order to start his own trading company. He began with 21,000 rupees capital, which was a substantial amount for the time, and purchased an oil mill at Chinchpokli (in south Mumbai) that had gone bankrupt.

Tata then converted the oil mill into a cotton mill and named it Alexandra Mill. Two years later, he sold the cotton mill for a profit.

Setting Up a New Business in Nagpur

In 1874, Jamhedji Tata floated the Central India Spinning, Weaving, and Manufacturing Company in Nagpur, as it seemed to be a good location for him to establish his next business venture.

People failed to understand why he had left the profitable cotton business in Mumbai and started a new business in the underdeveloped city of Nagpur. But Tata’s gamble paid off. He was able to acquire land in Nagpur at a cheap price, which was available for resources.

Nagpur had abundant farm produce and distribution was relatively easier. Cheap land led to the convergence of railways at Nagpur, which helped to further develop the city.

In 1877, Tata established a new cotton mill at Nagpur and named it Empress Mill.

Pioneering the Indian Textile Industry

In 1885, Jamshedji Tata floated another company in Pondicherry for distributing Indian textiles to the nearby French colonies without having to pay duties. However, this venture of his was unsuccessful, mainly due to the insufficient demand for the fabrics he was distributing.

Due to the failure of this venture, Tata bought the Dharamsi Mills at Kurla, Bombay, which he later sold to purchase Advance Mills in Ahmedabad. He named it thus because it was one of the most high-tech mills in India at the time.

Tata tried to integrate the mill with the city in order to boost the economic growth of the city’s community, thereby greatly benefiting the city and its people. Ahmedabad soon became an important region of the Indian textile industry.

In this way, Tata helped to pioneer and advance the textile and cotton industry in India.

Tata’s Four Goals in Life

Jamshedji Tata was said to have had four main goals in life. One, establishing an iron and steel company. Two, establishing a world-class learning institution. Third, establishing a unique hotel. And fourth, establishing a hydroelectric plant.

On 3rd December 1903, a few months before Tata’s death, the Taj Mahal Hotel was inaugurated at Colaba, Mumbai. It was the only hotel in India at the time to have electricity.

Sadly, out of his four main goals, the hotel was the only goal that became a reality during his lifetime.

Supporting the Swadeshi Movement

When the Swadeshi movement began in 1905, Jamshedji Tata became an ardent supporter of the movement.

The Swadeshi movement was a political movement in British India that promoted and encouraged the manufacturing and selling of domestic goods and the boycott of imported goods. Tata was deeply impressed by the principles of the movement, and in tribute to it, he even named his new cotton mill in Bombay Swadeshi Mill.

Manchester, in England, had become famous for producing soft, fine cloth. And this cloth from Manchester was exported to India, where it became quite popular. People no longer preferred the coarse material produced in India.

And it was precisely to counter this problem that Tata established the Swadeshi Mill, with the aim to manufacture finer and softer cloth to compete with the ones coming from Manchester, thereby reducing the number of imports coming in from there.

A New Vision

Tata’s ambition regarding the manufacturing of quality Indian cloth grew and expanded. He now began envisioning India as the sole maker of the fine, soft cloths for which the weavers of India were once famous.

He wanted India to become an important manufacturer of all kinds of quality cloth and an exporter of it as well. And in order to achieve this end, Jamshedji Tata began experimenting with various ways to improve the cultivation of cotton grown in India. He came to the conclusion that adopting the cultivation method of the Egyptian cultivators, who were well-known for the soft cotton they produced, would enable India’s cotton industry to achieve these lofty goals.

Tata was also the first to introduce the ring spindle into his mills, which soon replaced the throstle that was generally used by Indian manufacturers.


Jamshedji Tata was widely known and admired for his philanthropy. He established and supported several charities and generously donated toward healthcare and education.

Hurun Research India and EdelGive Foundation named Tata the greatest philanthrope of the 20th century, with an estimated donation of $102 billion adjusted for inflation.

Fortunately, all the subsequent generations of Tata chairmen have upheld and continued with such philanthropic activities up to the present day, making it an important part of the Tata Group’s culture and tradition.


On 19th May 1904, Jamshedji Tata, aged 65, died in Bad Nauheim, a town in the Wetteraukreis district in the state of Hesse in Germany.

He was buried in the Parsi burial ground in Brookwood Cemetry, Woking, Surrey, England.

Tributes poured in from prominent personalities in the political and business field. Lord Curzon stated, “No Indian of the present generation had done more for the commerce and industry of India.”

While the Times of India said, “He was not a man who cared to bask in the public eye. He disliked public gatherings, he did not care for making speeches, and his sturdy strength of character prevented him from fawning on any man, however great, for he himself was great in his own way, greater than most people realized. He sought no honor and he claimed no privilege, but the advancement of India and her myriad peoples was with him an abiding passion.”

India had lost its greatest entrepreneur and industrialist.


Jamshedji Tata is widely regarded as a pioneer of modern India. He began India’s industrialization by setting up a group of companies that would eventually go on to establish a strong foothold in several sectors, thereby beginning a new age in Indian history.

He is considered by many to be one of the greatest Indians to have ever lived. A visionary who firmly put India on its path toward development, changing the way India was perceived across the world.

Tata believed that widespread industrialization and the infusion of modern science and technology into India’s economic life were important to support and defend its freedom. And he did all he could in his lifetime to lead India to the path of industrialization.

Tata laid down a strong foundation for his successors to build on. And build they did. They carried forward the tradition and culture laid down by Tata and even exceeded his vision for the Tata Group.

His older son, Dorabji, became the chairman of the group in 1904 and went on to establish the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), later known as Tata Steel, on 26th August 1907 at Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.

On 18th September 1919, Dorabji founded India’s first hydroelectric plant known as Tata Power. And in 1909, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), commonly known as the Tata Institute, was established, with the first batch admitted in 1911.

With this, the four primary goals of Tata’s life had been achieved by his son.

In 1938, JRD Tata, the son of Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (the first cousin of Jamshedji Tata who played an important role in the growth of the Tata Group) became the chairman of the Tata Group. The Group flourished under his chairmanship, growing into a conglomerate of 95 enterprises.

The Tata Group entered into sectors such as cosmetics, chemicals, marketing, tea, software services, technology, and engineering.

In 1932, JRD founded Tata Air Services, later renamed Tata Airlines, which was eventually taken over by the Government of India and became the flag carrier airline of India.

In 1945, Tata Motors was established with a focus on locomotives. In 1954, Tata entered into a joint venture with Daimler-Benz for commercial vehicles. And in 1968, Tata Consultancy Services was established.

In the year 1991, Ratan Tata became chairman of Tata Group and began to acquire several companies such as Tetley, Corus Group, Jaguar, and Land Rover.

Jamshedji Tata was a man who was unanimously respected and admired by political and industrial leaders alike. And he was praised for his achievements by great personalities such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Zakir Hussain.

India surely needs more visionaries and entrepreneurs who can follow in the great man’s footsteps and be as courageous and enterprising as him. I am quite certain that one would hardly disagree with me when I say that Jamshedji Tata was one of the greatest and most significant Indians to have ever lived.