Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata

J.R.D. Tata was born in Paris, France in 1904 and died in Geneva, Switzerland in 1993. You’d think that he was as Indian as one gets but he was only half Indian. His father was Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and his mother Suzanne “Sooni” Brière. His mother tongue was French. As a French citizen, on turning 20, he had to serve in the French army for a year.

J.R.D. was the founder of many Tata companies, including Tata Airlines in 1932 (which became Air India in 1946 — which was nationalized in 1953)  for which he is known as the “Father of Indian Civil Aviation.” He was chairman of Air India until Prime Minister Morarji Desai fired him in 1977.[1] 

Here’s a video that my friend Loknath pointed me to today. JRD in conversation with Rajiv Mehrotra sometime (I am guessing) around 1985.  Clearly he was a very good person, not just a great industrialist. Somehow he appears to have admired Nehru. He was on good terms with Morarji Desai. I was surprised to learn that he had toyed with the idea of entering politics. I learned quite a bit about him from the video. (As usual, it can be watched at 1.25x speed without loss of comprehension.)


[1] Air India is, in my considered opinion, the worst among the world’s major airlines. Just a couple of weeks ago I took Air India from BOM to EWR. The food was unspeakably bad, the entertainment system did not work, the plane was falling apart, and the service was poor. In the economy section, they did not even have those tiny pillows airlines usually give together with a blanket. I asked what happened. I was told that they are cutting costs. Good thing — because Air India’s accumulated losses amount to around Rs 100,000 crores.

How much is that? Think about handing out Rs 100,000 to 10 million poor Indian families. Would that make a difference to their lives?


Author: Atanu Dey


3 thoughts on “Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata”

  1. Great historical interview. We did not have access to this kind of information growing up. It is a shame that in those days J.R.D. was thought of as enemy of society. His anecdote about Nehru’s and Indira’s attitude to industrialists like him is amusing. It was not well known in India that his mother was French and French was his first language. I am glad Atanu posted this video. FWIW, the latest news is that Tata group’s capitalization exceeds that of the entire stock market value of Pakistan.


    1. P. Rao: “FWIW, the latest news is that Tata group’s capitalization exceeds that of the entire stock market value of Pakistan.”

      Why are you comparing India with Islamic republic of Pakistan. we should be judging India to much higher standards than the countries like Pak. Don’t set the bar too low.


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