A tribute by Tata Central Archives and tata.com
If you want excellence, you must aim at perfection. I know that aiming at perfection has its drawbacks. 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
JRD Tata (July 29, 1904 - November 29, 1993)
Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata — JRD Tata — was the second of four children of Suzanne Brière and RD Tata, the first cousin of Tata group Founder Jamsetji Tata. JRD Tata was born in Paris on July 29, 1904, and was educated in France, England and Japan. He joined the Tata group as an unpaid apprentice in December 1925. At 22, soon after his father passed away, JRD inherited his father's position as a permanent director on the board of Tata Sons, the group's flagship company.
As a child, JRD was fascinated by flying; he grew up in France watching the early flights of famous aviator Louis Bleriot. Later, JRD became one of the first Indians to be granted a commercial pilot's licence in 1929. The first of JRD's big adventures in business was born of this childhood fascination — in 1932, Tata Aviation Service took to the skies. The first flight in the history of Indian aviation lifted off from Karachi (in pre-partition India) with JRD at the controls of a Puss Moth. The airmail service was the forerunner to Tata Airlines, which later became Air India.
Throughout his life, JRD touched the lives of countless people, rich and poor, manager and worker, as he became the embodiment of the principles and philosophy of the house of Tata. He was a remarkable human being and a great leader, who treated everyone as an equal.
He once wrote: "If I were to attribute any single reason to such success as I have achieved, I would say that success would not have been possible without a sustained belief that what I did or attempted to do would serve the needs and interests of our country and our people and that I was a trustee of such interests."
JRD Tata did much for sports at Tata and in India. Naturally inclined towards sports, he was more than familiar, as a participant, with football, aquatics and weightlifting. The Tata Sports Club was set up under his aegis in 1937, and he was the president of the club for more than 40 years — from 1937 to 1980. Tata Sports Club proved to be a boon for generations of budding athletes and established talent in a variety of sporting disciplines, most notably hockey, football, cricket and athletics.
Despite his very public persona, JRD was a shy and reticent man. He never hankered after honours but was showered with them, much to his bemusement. The Indian government conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, upon him in 1992. The award that JRD valued the most was the Dadabhai Naoroji Award, which he received in 1989. Soon after he received the award, he sanctioned unsolicited grants to eight institutions engaged in the literacy and uplift of women when he read about Dadabhai Naoroji's pioneering efforts in the field of female education in India.