Before the Ambani’s squabbles became daily fodder for the papers and the over played extravagance of the Mittals and Mallyas, there was a time when Indian Entrepreneurs meant business and stood for something other than peacock like displays. Nearly a century and a half ago the Tata’s were not the powerhouse they are today. Their empire and industrial might were yet just a twinkle in the eye of Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata, the “Father of Indian Industry”.Unlike most Indian entrepreneurs of his time Jamshetji believed in research, cutting edge technology and values. If one would judge entrepreneurs by their sheer adherence to the image of an ideal Entrepreneur, Jamshetji wins hands down. My case lies before you as I argue his prominence over all others not on the weight of the capital future past and present which he created but on his entrepreneurial life.
The Tata Family circa 1900
A good entrepreneur never gives up - After leaving his father’s business in 1868, he started a trading company with a seed capital of Rs. 21,000. In 1869, he took over a bankrupt oil mill in Chinchpokli, and started producing cotton instead, calling it the Alexandra Mill. He sold the mill after two years convinced that Indian cotton could be made better. He made a journey to England in1872 to study the Lancashire cotton mills there.
Around the same time Mr Premchand Roychand's business went under, the Tata family had considerable investment in the venture and went into debt. They lost their house and had to work from the ground up to make their daily bread. Taking his losses in stride Jamshetji pushed himself and his mills to success. Replicating his takeover of the mills at Chinchpokli he bought the Dharamsi Cotton Mill at Coorla, renamed it the Swadeshi and made it profitable too. His belief in his abilities did not permit him to throw in the towel; he took failing businesses and made them shine.His residence in Tata Esplanade House
Innovating for success- Most entrepreneurs know that to stay ahead of their competitors they must use the latest technology. In our world of computers and hand held devices this may be the norm but back then Jamshetji was definitely pointing the way. His Empress Mills (named so after Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India) displayed some of his innovative thinking. He utilized the ring spindle invented in the US before any other mill had even heard of it with great results.
It was not just his business acumen that made him successful. A reading of Growth of Egyptian Cotton in India a pamphlet he wrote, points out to his attention to all spheres of production. His efforts in growing Egyptian cotton despite the warning of failure from government agriculture experts yielded “fruit”.He incorporated the growing telegraph and Railroad system in India to grow his market space. He also took the iron and steel industry to new heights by using electric power generation, and technical education to affect higher quality production.
A Tata Hydro Electric Plant
Giving back to the people- Entrepreneurs today claim to do it for the love of it all, but most keep the profits and work their labor to the bone. In a time without labor laws where he could get away with anything, Jamshetji was not just an entrepreneur chasing glory and riches. He was a pioneer and a social thinker in terms of the labor rules he enforced. Long before it became the law he instated management where he became a salaried managing director, reporting to a board of directors. Corporate governance did not even exist when he came up with this.
His policies gave workers training, guaranteed pensions and tips, medical care, accident compensation, and daycare for women employees with children. Compared to some companies of today his workers received far more benefits showing just how ahead of his time he was.
Creating a Legacy- All of us desire to leave behind a legacy. For an entrepreneur a legacy that lasts is the ultimate testament to their life’s work. For Jamshetji his greatest achievement was one he would never live to see. Steel production before Jamshetji was more or less nonexistent in India. He employed Charles Page Perin and several other American surveyors to find iron ore deposits viable for large scale production. However before he could see his dream of an Indian Steel production unit roll out he passed away.One of the first Tata steel mills
He had many dreams and visions which he could never see fulfilled. The only one he was to see in his lifetime was a labor of love. The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai was built by him to provide five star amenities to Indians. Some say that after being refused lodgings at more English establishments he took it upon himself to create a hotel of international standards. Whatever the truth may be Jamshetji virtually handpicked what went into his hotel. He bought a soda and ice factory, washing and polishing machines, a laundry, elevators, and an electric generator by travelling to European countries. The Taj Mahal was opened for business in 1903 and was the only building in them Bombay to be fully electric.
Ideal Entrepreneur -The very essence of Jamshetji Tata was to be an entrepreneur not for profit or gain but for others and the spirit of value creation. In a world where we look up to ostentatious displays of wealth riddled with scandals and megalomania his legacy has stood the test of time. It is worth noting that we remember him even today whereas the other business magnates of his time have faded into obscurity despite the incredible wealth they gathered. Perhaps we remember Jamshetji best because he truly was the ideal entrepreneur who did not just gather wealth but shared it.
There is no need to justify placing him on a podium. In an age where corporate greed and selfishness has diluted the fine entrepreneurial values and qualities that initially help us all succeed, Jamshetji is but a reminder of better times. If we can replicate some of his spirit of entrepreneurship, then we too are on the road to building our own legacy, for a better tomorrow.About me:- I am a Content Writer and editor at large. I also moonlight as an arm chair political thinker and economist. My views are usually cynical (take no heed) and hopefully enlightening. My views are mine and solely mine and in no way shape or form reflects the stance, leanings or ideology of yourstory.in
References- Tata.com, Wikipedia.com, whereincity.com
Photo courtesy- geveandeveryotherthing.blogspot.com