Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata was born in Paris on July 29, 1904. He was the second child of Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and his French wife Sooni. When he was fifteen years he decided that one day he too would fly though he waited ten more years for that to happen. He also served in a regiment called Les Saphis (The Sepoys) with the French army in 1924.
In 1925 he was called to India by his father, who was in the House of Tatas, to join him in Mumbai. His father died shortly afterwards and J.R.D., as he was fondly called, took his place as director of Tata Sons at the young age of twenty-one. In 1938 JRD Tata, who was barely thirty-four, was appointed the chairman of India’s largest industrial house!
JRD Tata headed India’s largest business house for over half a century. In 1939 he started Tata Chemicals, the first chemical industry for India. Following that in 1945, Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO) was established for making locomotives for the Indian Railways. Today, TELCO is the country’s largest commercial vehicle producer.
He is also known as the ‘Father of Indian Aviation’. The Tata Airlines was India’s first commercial airline. JRD Tata’s passion for flying was fulfilled with the formation of the Tata Aviation Service in 1932. He piloted its first flight himself. In 1948 it was renamed Air-India International and was a joint project with the Government of India. Though the airline was nationalised in 1953, he remained at the helm of Air India till 1978, making it one of the most efficient airlines in the world. JRD Tata’s greatest gift in promoting the field of science in India was that he gave financial support to Homi Bhabha, a great Indian scientist, to set up the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.