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Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata (1839-1904)

Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata ranks among the greatest visionaries of industrial enterprise of all time. Gifted with the most extraordinary imagination and prescience he laid the foundations of Indian industry, contributed to its consolidation, and became a key figure in India's industrial renaissance. Born on 3rd march 1839, into a family descended from Parsi priests in Navsari, a centre for age-old Parsi culture, he was educated at Elphinstone College, Bombay.

Initiated early into the techniques of trade by his father, he traveled wide, gained a scientific outlook, and first set up textile business in India, introducing new machinery that vastly improved the production of cotton yarn in the country. He however realized that India's real freedom depended upon its self-sufficiency in scientific knowledge, power, and steel, and thus devoted the major parts of his life and fortune to three great enterprises - The Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore, the Hydro-electric schemes and the Iron & Steel Works at Jamshedpur.

Wealth to him was not the end, but the means to an end - the increased prosperity of India. His attitude to labour was remarkably ahead of his times, constantly reinforcing the norm that the success of industry depended upon sound and straightforward business principles, the interests of the shareholders, the health and welfare of the employees. As early as 1892, he established the JN Tata endowment for higher education abroad of outstanding Indian students.

A pioneer in town planning, he was mainly responsible for modernizing Bombay. He envisaged and conceived a steel town to the very last detail, the town that was later to be named Jamshedpur, after him.

Driven by Jamsetji's spirit of adventure, the first Tata explorers ventured into the forests and hills of Central India and Bihar in the summer of 1903 in search of mineral deposits for the steel plant. The saga, which had begun 25 years ago with the Lohara ore deposits in Chanda district culminated at Sakchi at the confluence of the rivers Subarnarekha and Kharkai on December 1907. The first stake for the steel plant was driven on a forest-covered plateau in Sakchi on 27th February 1908. The dream had come alive but the dreamer himself was no more for Jamsetji had died at Bad Nauheim in Germany in 1904 after exhorting his successors to preserve the family name. His spirit continued to inspire his sons to carry their father's dreams to fruition well after his death.

He was one of the most widely traveled Indians of his time, said to possess a knowledge that was encyclopedic. Not only did he have a great love for it, he had a passion to impart it to others, for, as early as 1892, he established the J N Tata Endowment for higher education abroad of outstanding Indian students. Jamsetji Tata won himself an enduring place in India's history with his unique courage, commitment, vision.