Thirtieth book reviewed as part of the 130 Challenge.
This book was read as part of a book talk organized by the Information Resource Center (IRC) of Tata Consultancy Services at Kochi in collaboration with the Toastmaster’s Club, TCS Kochi. I work at Tata Consultancy Services.
This is a biography and as biographies go, it is quite extensive an account of the life and times of J.R.D. Tata (henceforth called ‘Jeh’). Divided into 4 sections, the book takes us through Jeh’s family heritage and the circumstances of his birth, followed by his childhood and coming of age as the assistant to one of the directors at Tata Steel as well as his courtship with Thelma Vicaji. This concludes the first section and builds up some excitement about the most important contribution by Jeh to the world – the Indian Civil Aviation industry.
Jeh is credited with building the entire industry almost single-handed from scratch, with support from the coffers of Tata Sons. And as all such tales of struggle go, it is fascinating story that has been very well told. It starts on a note of great adventure, courage and hope with the description of Jeh’s first flight from Karachi to Bombay. Then it outlines the risks involved and the challenges that were faced by Jeh and friends and the clever and determined approaches that they took to overcome them. Throughout this story, one thing that stands out is Jeh’s tremendous commitment to punctuality and quality of service.
This section follows the rise of Tata Airlines as Jeh’s brainchild and then, its nationalization into Air India and Air India International. It’s a poignant story of determination of Jeh to serve the nation, as he continued as the chairman of Air India International, despite an apathetic and sometimes hostile Indian Bureaucracy. The conclusion of this story is a well-known story of shameful disregard of the contribution of the man who started the Indian Air Industry, by the Indian government as he was being showered by accolades and awards abroad.
The third section beautifully follow his stint as the chairman for over 50 years and his intimate relationship with the managers and directors of the various Tata companies and the expansion of Tatas into many different areas.
The last section looks at Jeh as a loving patriarch, a model citizen and an inspiring leader of men. It talks about Jeh’s passion, commitment and unwavering dedication towards the principles that he always held close to his heart. There is a lot of optimism in the book and a bit of anguish too, as Jeh notes the many ways that he, despite doing everything in his power, failed to improve the situation in India. His indomitable spirit and passion for perfection is best demonstrated in the following quote –
I would call this a definitive and comprehensive book on the life of J.R.D. Tata, but at the same time, I’d suggest you consider reading ‘The creation of Wealth‘, also by the same author, which chronicles the entire history of the Tata family’s adventures in entrepreneurship. The compilation of letters from and to J.R.D. Tata (Letters and Keynote) also seems to be an interesting read to gain insight into the mind of this humble, somewhat media-shy and intense individual.