Rediscover Jamsetji Tata: The Man Who Built TISCO & the Taj Hotel

On Jamsetji Tata’s death anniversary, rediscover the man who built Tata Steel and the iconic Taj Hotel.

3 min read
Jamsetji Tata, founder of the Tata Group is known as the father of Indian industry.

(This piece was first published on 3 March 2015 and is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata’s death anniversary.)

The history of Tata is intermingled with India’s history.

Jamsetji Tata, founder of the Tata Group is known as the father of Indian industry. He created Tata Steel, set up hydroelectric power projects, and built several great institutions, including the Indian Institute of Science. He would have been 178 years old today.

Jamsetji Tata. 
Jamsetji Tata. 
(Photo Courtesy: Tata Central Archives)

Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata was born on 3 March, 1839, in Navsari, a small town in Gujarat, into a family of Parsi priests. He was broad built, his voice gravelly.

Jamsetji was well read. His day began with an early morning walk, followed by breakfast at 9 am. He would spend the next couple of hours studying and reading.

At noon he would leave for work in his horse carriage to the Navsari Building in Bombay. At 6 pm he would leave for one of his clubs. Needless to say, the man who went on to build the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, loved good food.

After dinner, he would retire to the library to read and contemplate.

(L-R JN Tata, Cousin RD Tata, Sons Ratan Tata and Dorab Tata. 
(L-R JN Tata, Cousin RD Tata, Sons Ratan Tata and Dorab Tata. 
(Photo Courtesy: Tata Steel 100)

His health started to decline around the age of 60. He asked his cousin RD Tata to preserve his legacy. He said,

“If you cannot make it greater, at least preserve it. Do not let things slide. Go on doing my work and increasing it but if you cannot, do not lose what we have already done.”

Iron and Steel Man

Jamsetji’s interest in iron and steel was piqued by a lecture he attended in Manchester, of the famous philosopher Thomas Carlyle. The words, “the nation which gains control of iron soon acquires control of gold” got etched in Jamsetji’s mind.

In 1900, Jamsetji won the support of the then Secretary of State for India,Lord George Hamilton.The Tata Iron and Steel CompanyLimited became operational seven years after hisdeath in Jamshedpur.

The skyline of Tata Steel Works, 1918. 
The skyline of Tata Steel Works, 1918. 
(Photo Courtesy: TataSteel100)

Not all were happy with the setting up of this company. The then Chief Commissioner of Indian Railways, Sir Frederick Upcott promised to “eat every pound of steel rail [the Tatas] succeed in making”.

Though Jamsetji had passed away by the time, production of steel in the plant began in 1912, his spirit carried forward by son Dorab and cousin RD Tata.

Tata Iron and Steel Company was established by Dorabji Tata on 25 August 1907, as part of his father Jamsetji‘s Tata Group. In 2013, it was the 11th largest steel producing company in the world.

First Share Certificate of TISCO. 
First Share Certificate of TISCO. 
(Photo Courtesy: TataSteel100)

The Taj Mahal Story

Taj Mahal Hotel.
Taj Mahal Hotel.
(Photo Courtesy: Flicker/Lou Morgan)

The story goes that Jamsetji was turned out of a hotel abroad, which deeply hurt him, prompting him to build a hotel for Indians.

In 1898, the foundations of the Taj Mahal Hotel were laid. The hotel opened in 1903 with 17 guests . The Gateway of India was yet to be built. Facing the mouth of the harbour, the hotel stood confidently in its solitary splendour. The Taj was so designed that some rooms were just a few feet away from the sea - giving the guest an illusion that he was still aboard a ship.

Commemorative Coins Released On Jamsetji’s Birth Anniversary

In January this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi honoured Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata by releasing commemorative coins to mark his 175th birth anniversary. The Prime Minister recognised that Jamsetji had ‘set in motion what became Asia’s first integrated steel company, despite the hostile investment environment of a colonised India and his own failing health.’

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!