Early Life

  • J.R.D. Tata was born on 29 July 1904 in Paris, to Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata and his French wife, Suzzane Briere. His father was Jamshedji Tata’s first cousin. J.R.D. Tata was brought up and educated in France, Japan, England and India.
  • He spent much of his childhood in France as his mother was French. As a result, his first language was French. He attended the Janson De Sailly School in Paris.
  • JRD Tata attended the Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay. Tata got educated in London, Japan, France and India.
  • His father moved the whole family to London after he joined Tata Group. During this time, J.R.D’s mother died at an early age of 43.
  • After his mother’s death, Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata decided to move his family to India. His father sent J.R.D to England for higher studies in October 1923. JRD was enrolled in a Grammar school, and was interested in studying Engineering at Cambridge.
  • He was hoping to enter Cambridge soon after completing the Grammar course. However french legislator passed a law to draft  into the army all French boys at the age of 20.

    Young JRD Tata
  • After a 12-month period of conscription in the French Army he wanted to proceed to Cambridge for further education.  After he left the service the whole regiment in which he served perished on an expedition in Morocco.

JRD Tata Professional Life

  • His father summoned him back to India to join the family business. In the mid-1920s, he joined the family business as an unpaid apprentice.
  • After his father died, he became a board member of Tata Sons at the young age of 22. He gave up his French citizenship in 1929, and became a citizen of India.
  • In 1930 JRD married Thelma Vicaji, the niece of Jack Vicaji, a colourful lawyer whom he hired to defend him on a charge of driving his Bugatti too fast along Bombay’s main promenade, Marine Drive.
  • On 10 February 1929, Tata obtained the first pilot licence issued in India. In 1929, J. R. D became one of the first Indians to be granted a commercial pilot’s license.

    JRD Tata in Commercial Plane.
    JRD Tata in Commercial Plane.
  • JRD Tata founded India’s first commercial airline, Tata Airlines in 1932, which became Air India in 1946, now India’s national airline. The Historians later called him father of Indian civil aviation. The first flight in the history of Indian aviation lifted off from Drigh Road in Karachi with J. R. D at the controls.
  • JRD Tata nourished and nurtured his airline baby through to 1953, when the government of Jawaharlal Nehru nationalized Air India. It was a decision J. R. D had fought against tooth and nail.
  • In 1938, Board of Director of Tata Group elected JRD as Chairman of Tata Sons making him the head of the largest industrial group in India.
  • Under his chairmanship, the assets of the Tata Group grew from US$100 million to over US$5 billion.

    JRD Tata with Ratan Tata
    JRD Tata with Ratan Tata
  • JRD Tata started with 14 enterprises under his leadership and half a century later on 26 July 1988, when he left, Tata Sons was a conglomerate of 95 enterprises which they either started or in which they had controlling interest.

Awards and honours

  • He received the Padma Vibhushan in 1955.
  • The French government bestowed on him French Legion of Honour in 1983.
  • In 1992, Government of India awarded him India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.
  • Same year, United Nation awarded him United Nations Population Award for his crusading endeavours towards initiating and successfully implementing the family planning movement in India.
  • In his memory, the Government of Maharashtra named its first double-decker bridge the Bharatratna JRD Tata Overbridge at Kasarwadi Phata, Pune.


  • JRD Tata died in Geneva, Switzerland on 29 November 1993 at the age of 89 of a kidney infection. He was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
  • The Government of India adjourned Parliament for a day in his memory upon his death.

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