Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the Founder of Tata Group, is one single person who changed the technical scene of India. He was the true engineer who built the nation with his vision. JNT, born in 1839, started his business in trading and established a textile mill at an early age. Unlike any ordinary businessman, JNT used his money not to make more money, but to establish fundamental industries. His vision had three concepts: one, steel was the basic input to industries; two, hydropower energy was cheaper; and, three, technical education was essential for progress of industries. And JNT worked for these.
When he was 43, in 1882, JNT read a report by a German geologist about iron deposits in India. JNT worked on the idea of a steel mill in India relentlessly and the efforts continued after his death in 1904. On February 16, 1912, the first ingot of steel rolled out, now Jamshedpur! The industrial revolution came to India. The Tata steel mill progressed so well that during World War I, Tatas exported 1,500 miles of steel rails!
On the energy front, JNT introduced a marvellous concept. Till that day, hydropower was generated only through natural waterfalls. JNT’s idea was to build artificial water reservoirs in the Western Ghats of now Maharashtra and flow the water through pipes, down to the generating station. The Mumbai mills worked with coal-fired steam boilers then and, as would sound strange today, only two mill owners had agreed to lift the electricity, if it was produced! The Khopoli Hydropower Station, capacity 72 MW, the first power station in India, was commissioned in 1915!
According to Tata Group, Jamsetji Tata’s business successes shrouded the assortment of passions and commitments that he carried and nurtured across a fascinating life. He had an abiding love for Mumbai, for travel and, most of all, for new ideas. His was a mind constantly seeking knowledge and daring to push the frontiers of achievement, right up to his demise in Germany in 1904. “Money is like fire, an element as little troubled by moralising as earth, air and water,” said the American essayist Lewis H. Lapham. “Men can employ it as a tool, or they can dance around it as if it were an incarnation of God.” Jamsetji Tata employed the wealth he created to enrich India and her people.
That was Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the great engineer of India!