R D Tata

Indian industrialist (b. July 29, 1904, Paris, France – d. Nov. 29, 1993, Geneva, Switz.), for more than 50 years controlled what under his leadership became India’s largest industrial empire. R D Tata was born into one of India’s wealthiest families, but his mother was French, and he spent much of his childhood in France. As a result, French was his first language. It was while on a summer vacation that he first met aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot. This encounter kindled an interest in aircraft that eventually became a lifelong passion.

R D Tata

R D Tata returned to India to join the family business in 1922. He gained the director’s seat on the board of Tata Sons Ltd left vacant by his father’s death in 1926, and by 1938 he was chairman of the company. During his tenure Tata Sons diversified from ironworks and steelworks into chemicals, hotels, engineering, and other industries. His true interest remained airplanes, however, and in 1932 he formed Tata Airlines and piloted its inaugural flight between Karachi (then in India) and Bombay. The airline developed into the international carrier Air India. In 1953 air transport was nationalized along with other industries in India. R D Tata also worked for and generously supported many causes. He was an early advocate of family palnning (an often politically unpopular position), and in 1971 he created the Family Planning Foundation.

In 1991 R D Tata received the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, and in 1992 he received the United Nations Population Award. In 1991 Tata stepped down from Tata Sons at the age of 87; the more than 80 companies that the empire comprised generated approximately $4 billion annually.

Courtesy : 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica

Biography : R.M. Lala (1993) Beyond the Last Blue Mountain : a life of J RD Tata (1903-1993)