JRD Tata

JRD Tata – The Father of Indian Civil Aviation

JRD Tata

Who is JRD Tata?

JRD Tata full name – Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata

JRD Tata (29 July 1904 – 29 November 1993) was a non-resident Indian aviator, industrialist, entrepreneur and chairman of Tata Group.

About JRD Tata:

  • J.R.D. Tata belong to the wealthiest the Tata family of India. He was the son of noted businessman Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and his wife Suzanne Brière.  
  • His mother was French, and he spent much of his childhood in France. As a result, French was his first language.
  • In 1930, JRD Tata married Thelma Vicaji a lawyer by profession who was the first woman in India to drive a car.

Passion towards Aviation:

  • Since his childhood JRD Tata had fascination for flying.
  • During a summer vacation when he met aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot, his interest in aircraft eventually became a lifelong passion.
  • In 1929, he became the first licensed pilot in India.


  • He did his schooling at Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay. After his mother’s death, Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata decided to move his family to India and sent JRD Tata to England for higher studies in October 1923.
  • After studying in France, Japan, and England, Tata served in the French army for a year.
  • He had planned to study engineering at the University of Cambridge but was compelled to return to India to assume his role in the Tata family business in 1925.

JRD Tata’s Illustrious Career:

  • Established in 1868 by Tata’s great-grandfather, the Tata Group was one of India’s largest business conglomerates.
  • In 1929, JRD Tata renounced his French citizenship and became an Indian citizen.
  • Within a year his father had died, and Tata took his place as director of Tata Sons, the group’s flagship company.
  • Tata surrendered his French citizenship in 1929, and that same year he became one of the first Indians to gain a commercial pilot’s license.

JRD Tata’s Growth as Chairman of Tata Sons:

  • JRD Tata pioneered civil aviation in the subcontinent in 1932 when he launched Tata Airlines. But that was only one of many path-breaking achievements of JRD, who guided the destiny of the Tata group for more than half a century
  • He joined Tata Sons as an unpaid apprentice in 1925. In 1938, at the age of 34, Tata was elected as the Chairman of Tata Sons making him the head of the largest industrial group in India.
  • He took over as Chairman of Tata Sons from his second cousin Nowroji Saklatwala.

Birth of Tata Airlines – India’s first commercial airline

Tata Airlines (Air India)

Tata Airlines
  • He founded India’s first commercial airline, Tata Airlines in 1932, which became Air India in 1946, now India’s national airline.
  • In 1929, J. R. D. became one of the first Indians to be granted a commercial’s license.
  • In 1932 Tata Aviation Service, the forerunner to Tata Airline and Air India, took to the skies.

Building an Empire worth US$5 billion:

Tata Sons, Tata Group of companies
  • He led the Tata Sons for decades. He directed the huge Tata Group of companies, with major interests in steel, engineering, power, chemicals and hospitality.
  •  He was famous for succeeding in business while maintaining high ethical standards refusing to bribe politicians or use the black market.
  • Under his chairmanship, the assets of the Tata Group grew from US$100 million to over US$5 billion.
  • He started with 14 enterprises under his leadership and half a century later on 26 July 1988, when he left, Tata Sons was a conglomerate of 95 enterprises which they either started or in which they had controlling interest.

He has founded several industries under the Tata Group which includes

JRD Tata’s Charity Works:

JRD Tata’s Charity Works
  • In India the term ‘national interest’ means all sorts of things to all kinds of people. To JRD, it meant advancing the country’s scientific and economic capacities. He had strong views on what would help India and what would hinder its gigantic struggle to eradicate poverty. In 1944 he founded the multipurpose JRD Tata Trust.
  • A few years later he sold more of his shares and an apartment in Bombay to establish the JRD and Thelma Tata Trust, which works to improve the lot of India’s disadvantaged women.

JRD Tata’s Contribution to Science, Medical, Education & Arts:

He has guided and established several institutions to promote scientific, medical, education and artistic endeavours in India. The following are some of the institutions:

JRD Tata’s Awards and Recognitions:

JRD Tata received several awards which includes

  • The Padma Vibhushan (1957)
  • In 1983, he was awarded the French Legion of Honour
  • The United Nations Population Award (1992).
  • In 1992 he received India’s highest civilian honour, The Bharat Ratna
  • He was conferred the honorary rank of group captain by the Indian Air Force in 1948, was promoted to the Air Commodore rank (equivalent to Brigadier in the army) on 4 October 1966, and was further promoted on 1 April 1974 to the Air Vice Marshal rank.

He also received Several international awards for his contribution to aviation.

  • The Daniel Guggenheim Medal for aviation (1988)
  • The Tony Jannus Award in March 1979
  • The Gold Air Medal of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in 1985,
  • The Edward Warner Award of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Canada in 1986


JRD Tata died in Geneva, Switzerland on 29 November 1993 at the age of 89. He was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.


  • He was known as the “Father of Indian civil aviation” because of his contribution to Aviation Industry
  • In 2012, Tata was ranked the sixth “The Greatest Indian” in an Outlook magazine poll, “conducted in conjunction with CNN-IBN and History18 Channels with BBC.
  • In his memory, the Government of Maharashtra named its first double-decker bridge the Bharat Ratna JRD Tata Overbridge at Nasik Phata, Pimpri Chinchwad
  • JRD Tata is one of the greatest and highly celebrated industrialists, who were humble despite being one of the most successful businessmen of his time.

Inspirational JRD Tata Quotes:

Here are 7 quotes by JRD Tata that will inspire you and fill you with motivation:

Uncommon thinkers reuse what common thinkers refuse.

Always aim at perfection for only then will you achieve excellence.

Money is like manure. It stinks when you pile it and grows when you spread it.

Quality is first engineered, only then it is inspected.

I do not want India to be an economic superpower. I want India to be a happy country.

When you work, work as if everything depends on you. When you pray, pray as if everything depends on God.

Common people have an appetite for food, uncommon people have an appetite for service.

JRD Tata Quotes


About the author


Writing is my Niche with which I like to share my thoughts and values. I believe words are the most powerful tool which can even Start/Stop a War. By using Motivating & Positive words, we can inspire others. By using Harsh words, we can hurt others. As it is proven Scientifically (Newton's Law) & Spiritually (Karma), "For every action, there is an equal & Opposite Reaction." So, Stop Hatred & Start Spreading love.

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