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Dorabji Tata

Dorabji Tata – A Profile

Following the footsteps of his father, Jamsetji Tata, Sir Dorabji Tata gave shape to his father’s dream and took the Tata Enterprise to the peak from where it shone bright like a sparkling jewel. His optimism and keenness were the qualities that led him to the pinnacle of success.

Belonging to the legendry family of the Tatas, the eldest son of Hirabai and Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, Dorabji too inherited the family traits of being a pioneering force, a leader and an achiever. His visionary approach and farsightedness made it possible for him to materialize every dream that his father had seen. This versatility that was ingrained in him through Jamsetji’s farsightedness, demonstrated a challenging approach in what ever he did.

Born in 1859 he received his primary education at Proprietary High School, Bombay after which he was sent to England where he was privately tutored. At the age of 18, he joined the Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge. His interest in sports excelled during the two years he spent at Cambridge. He received several awards in Cricket and Football. Abiding by the wish of his grandfather, Dorabji returned to India in 1879 and enrolled himself in the St. Xavier’s College Bombay.

Starting as a journalist with the ‘Bombay Gazette’ Dorabji gradually grew a liking for his ancestral business, and it was in 1884 that he finally made his first entry into his father’s business and joined the cotton division of his father’s firm. He was sent to Mysore to study and investigate the possibility of an expansion in the area. Dorabji was swift in preparing his report and getting the Government sanction to set up mills there.

Jamsetji wished him to meet the learned and highly esteemed Dr. H.J. Bhabha who stayed there with his daughter Meherbai. When he met Meher as she was called then, he is believed to have fallen in love at first sight. Their marriage was solemnized in 1897 when he was 38 and Meherbai was just 18.

While into the family business, Sir Dorabji worked for the realization of his father’s vision. He always wished to give life to his father’s dreams. In assistance with his cousin R.D. Tata, the abiding son got closely involved in materializing the project that his father had initiated. Thus began the saga of creating a modern iron and steel industry and the result was Tata Steel.

New challenges and difficulties would always be a source of inspiration for Dorabji. With his spirits high, he took on his shoulders the responsibility of powering the industries with hydroelectricity. And soon he was, credited for the establishment of ‘Tata Power’. The two prime companies established by him ‘Tata Steel’ and ‘Tata Power’ are an integral part of the Tata Group industries today.

Dorabji had always been the motivating force behind every member of his team. Along with others, he too would get intensely involved in every aspect of the project that he would handle. His inquisitiveness and interest in every detail was so intense that he even accompanied the researchers and scientists who traveled to the mineral fields in search of iron. He encouraged researchers to survey every part of the field and made sure no portion is left unattended.

Under the leadership of Dorabji Tata, the Tata Group experienced immense expansion. From just three cotton mills and the Taj Hotel Bombay, the firm spread its wings rapidly and soon grew to become the largest private sector steel company. To name a few additions that were made under his management includes an integrated steel plant, three hydroelectric power companies, a large edible oil and soap company, two cement companies and also the aviation unit pioneered by JRD Tata. Dorabji also saw the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, which became the pioneer scientific research centre in India.

Dorabji had an enduring love for sports. He took measures to enhance the athletic talent in India and also initiated to introduce the nation to the ‘Olympic movement’. Holding the position of the President of the Indian Olympic Association, he financed the Indian contingent to the Paris Olympiad in 1924. He also became a member of International Olympic Committee.

Dorabji Tata established the ‘Lady Tata Memorial Trust’ in fond memory of his wife Meherbai Tata who died of leukemia in 1931. The trust was established in order to advance the study into various diseases related to blood. In 1932, he established a trust fund, which was to be used for the advancement of research, for disaster relief and other humanitarian purposes. This trust came to be known as the ‘Sir Dorabji Tata Trust’. It is believed that Sir Dorabji had invested all his assets and wealth into this trust.

Notable amongst his other deeds is the sizeable donation he gave in the field of education. He donated a considerable amount of money to the University of Cambridge for setting up laboratory equipments in the School of Engineering and also for the establishment of a Chair for Sanskrit studies at the ‘Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute’, Pune. Dorabji is also known to have presented many of his paintings and artwork to the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay.

The legend, Sir Dorabji Tata, who is known for his immense contribution to the progress and well being of the Tata Empire, breathed his last in Bad Kissingen, Germany on 3rd June 1932. He is buried alongside his wife in the Brookwood Cemetery, England.

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