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Canadian author pens Tatas’ story

mumbai Updated: Jul 31, 2010 00:54 IST
HT Correspondent

Down on earth, corporate tycoon J.R.D. Tata is known for piloting the Tata group to success.

But up in the air, the avid aviator enjoyed success of a different kind — Tata received the first pilot’s licence to be granted in India. When his baby, Air India International, was born, he chose to pilot its maiden flight from Karachi to Bombay.

There’s much to know about the Tatas and the mammoth brand they built, and these are some of the trivia that make Canadian author Morgen Witzel’s new book, Tata – The Evolution of a Corporate Brand, an interesting read.

Tata chairman Ratan Tata launched the book on Friday but nobody from the group spoke at the function.

“It took me just 20 seconds to say 'yes' when Penguin asked me to author the book, because it’s the Tatas,” said Witzel at the launch.

In 2008, Business Week magazine ranked the Tata group sixth on its list of the world’s most innovative companies, and Witzel’s book, quite simply, explains why. With 15 books on business and management behind him, Witzel set about deconstructing the brand, its history and the values that make it reliable name for almost everyone in India. He discovered that its founder Jamshedji Tata and its longest serving chairman J.R.D, are at the centre of it all.

The book is full of instances of Tata’s philanthropy and social welfare, something that was valued by the brand’s leading men.

Tata Steel, for instance, became perhaps the first company in the world to initiate a dedicated human resource department, and was the first to offer accident compensations, bonuses and paid leave, schooling and medical welfare for its workers.

And while Jamshedji practically gifted Mumbai the Taj hotel by funding the exorbitant Rs 25 lakh from his own pocket in 1903, J.R.D has his own story of open-hearted generosity. When the Indian government asked him to be the chairman of the nationalised Air India, J.R.D agreed and held the post for 25 years without a pay. India needed experienced aviators, not novices, he felt.