Ratan Tata avenges JN Tata’s insult?

I had sometime earlier read about the British denying of an steel plant to JN Tata in the early 1900s which lead to him starting a steel company in India which finally led to Tata Steel. Today, Ratan Tata, the descendant of the enterprising pioneer has bought over the mega steel company Corus and two of the most iconic British automobile brands (Jaguar and Land Rover). Though Deccan Chronicle might be trying to create a story out of nothing, its still an interesting read.

The low profile Tata chairman, Mr Ratan Tata, has more than avenged the scorn that the British had first poured over his forefather and founder of Tata Steel, Jamshedji N. Tata with the signing and sealing of the deal involving the takeover of the iconic Jaguar-Land Rover brands.

According to history J.N. Tata, a big name in textiles, got the idea of a steel plant when he was on a trip to Manchester. He had set his mind on building a steel plant that would rival the best in the world. But as he found, steel was not as easy as building textile mills.

He had wanted to raise funds for his steel venture but it was met with scepticism by the British who were in the throes of the industrial revolution. As his biographer Frank Harris said Tata found his path blocked at every turn with the curious impediments which dog the steps of pioneers who attempt to modernise the East. There was Sir Frederick Upcott, chief commissioner of the Great Indian Penninsula Railway, who promised to ‘eat every pound of steel rail Tata succeeded in making.’

But Tata persisted and succeeded. In 1900 he met the secretary of state for India, Lord George Hamilton, in England. He was a man in a hurry as he bulldozed his way. He went from there to the US where he consulted Julian Kennedy, a leading metallurgist, and later met Charles Page Pertin who he wanted to take charge of building the plant in India.

Meanwhile, he advised his office in Bombay and it was known then, to obtain prospecting licences. But he passed away in 1904 and the steel plant took its first step in February 1908 when the first stake was driven in. The first blast furnace was blown in on December 2, 1911, and the first ingot was rolled out on February 16, 1912. One does not know if Sir Frederick was around and whether the steel ingots formed part of his diet then.

Now two centuries later, his successor Ratan Tata, literally took Britain by storm when he first took over Corus and then bid successfully for Jaguar-Land Rover. There was the same scepticism about a third world country taking over Corus and JLR. In fact in the US, dealers were appalled that an Indian should be taking over JLR as they thought it would reduce their ritzy luxury qualities. But Tata Motors prevailed and these British brands are now firmly hitched in Tata stable.

Article from: Deccan Chronicle



  1. Amit says:

    I would very much like to know if this was actually in his mind when he finaliaed the deal or is it just a cooked up story.
    Ah..well..I don’t think Mr. Tata is going to tell us. 🙂

  2. Quirky Indian says:

    Well, true or not, it’s an interesting story….not sure if you are aware of this, but there’s a similar story about how the Taj Mahal Hotel was founded…..

  3. Liju Philip says:

    @Amit, Ratan Tata is too much of a gentleman to even admit that.

    @Quirky Indian, yup the story about the Taj Mahal hotel is also similar to the Tata Steel. It was also about the Tata’s resolve to prove to the British that he can build a luxury hotel as good as the one in the west.

  4. Good businessmen will keep emotions of revenge out of their ventures. The Taj story about Dogs and Englishmen being allowed inside is cool. But we are no longer ruled by the British and have gone too far ahead …I met an English tourist in Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Island) in Cellular Jail and he had tears in his eyes, “Did my countrymen do this!?” They have changed, they have come a long way but we seem to be wanting to go back in time. Every state a different Princely State divided by caste, language, religion etc.

  5. Chintam says:

    It may be that it hurt us bit more than it hurt them(? now!!)
    Otherwise, it was nice and kind of us under Gandhiji’s leadership to say good bye to British treating them as our friends and I see only such a friendly atmosphere exisiting between 2 countries barring a few sweet jokes/stories to make us happy or feel proud.

  6. Chintam says:

    The common man might be in tears now and the same common British man had also opposed war on Iraq, it is only the governments or East India company with the backing of Govts that were and are bad, selfish and in-human. I woudn’t care about them but the common man.
    I wonder how the common British man and their media reacted to what went on during that period in Indian subcontinent?
    I asked the above question to a friendly British colleague here, who says they might not have good communication links that time to know what went on there.
    Otherwise, it is a bit of irony to see them going to Iraq to free the people and same tried to supress people asking for freedom. I know i’m comparing 2 different ages here but not a lot as difference being, it was Churchill then and now Blair.

  7. Liju Philip says:

    @Homemaker, the politicians love the divisions and we seem to fall into their trap. Cant help it.

    @Chintam, in those days news didnt travel so fast. But am sure, the local british people then had an inkling of what their govt was doing to people the world over. Nothing has changed much. When Blair dovetailed Bush into the Iraq war, he had a majority support in Britain. Only after seeing their soldiers being butchered by the terrorists does the common man wants them to withdraw.

    If they had won the war and if the body bags didnt come home, i dont think the British or the US people would bother much. Nothing has changed much even 50 years hence. The people are as apathetic today as they were then.

    Its the same the world over (including India).

  8. As IHM rightly says, there is no place for emotions in business. It’s just that the tables have turned. Till a few years back, the West had an upper hand. Now it’s the turn of the East to rule in the time to come. And the cycle will go on.

  9. Chintam says:

    Having in absolute agreement of what IHM had to say on emotions in business, was only commenting on the latter part.

  10. lazybug says:

    I don’t think Ratan Tata is that kind of a person. He has better things to do than avenge the firangis for an insult they did to his grand pa. Sure feels good to read such stories though.

  11. Liju Philip says:

    @Akhil, ya it must have been a typical DC story. Trying to find a controversy where nothing exists.

  12. Stefany says:

    I think Tata is right though he is gone to anohter extreme. The tata culture is a wonderful culture as far as I am concerned. They are not great pay master’s but in all the years that I worked in the Tata’s I was never part of one moral, ethical or legal wrong. In other organizations ( I can speak only about Indian companies here), every rule is broken, every last paisa of tax is evaded etc. And I ve never been able to fit into such a culture. I have a lot of friend’s who work in the U K and they paint the exact same picture of work life. They say that hardly any work gets done and nobody has any great commitment to the cause of the organization. Of course, like someone before me pointed out in India we have gone to anohter extreme were you could be disturbed at any time of the day (saturday and sunday not excluded) and if you say that this is your time off, you could come in for severe criticism (sometimes even lose your job). I think the right culture at work is the somewhere in between these two ideals.

  13. Hernandes says:

    As an Indian who has worked in India and the UK I find Mr Tata’s cotemnms emblematic of the work culture promoted in India. In this model, work is held up as the most important factor in an Individual’s life and all other facets including family life are seen as distractions. An Intersting point to note is that Mr Tata, who is a bachelor with no social life fails to appreciate the importance of work- life balance. The point is not to get employees to work extra but schedule and plan work accordingly. In my opinion the indian habit of extending work beyond normal hours in something to be discredited not held upon as a model to be followed. The british people should be happy with their lack of work ethic’ as Mr Tata puts it.Work is not life, for most people it is just a means of livelihood. And As for the work culture in south asia, I wonder if he is heard of the infamous sweat shops of south east asia. i wonder if Mr Tata has them as his ideal work place.

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