Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2006 (Revised April 2014)

J. R. D. Tata

by Nitin Nohria, Anthony Mayo and Mark Benson

Abstract

J.R.D Tata, Chairman of the Indian conglomerate Tata & Sons, played a significant role in building India's economic infrastructure. Under his guidance, Tata & Sons built locomotives, steel refineries, airlines, chemical plants, and technology-based enterprises. Inheriting his title as Chairman in 1938, at the outbreak of World War II, Tata was able to navigate his family-owned companies through the tumultuous political climate of India. He worked with British colonial officers, and later closely with several Indian leaders under both pro- and anti-business government regimes. Applying his family's values to the workplace, Tata & Sons helped revolutionize business practices in India. From instituting the eight-hour work day and paid leave to providing a retirement gratuity, Tata's policies created a standard to which other companies--and eventually Indian government regulators--measured themselves. Blending humane business practices with political savvy and a pioneering spirit, J.R.D Tata is remembered as one of India's most important and influential business leaders. Tata is an example of a 20th century business leader who applied contextual intelligence to a variety of businesses, dramatically changing the landscape of India's infrastructure.

Keywords: Family Business; Development Economics; Working Conditions; Leadership; Infrastructure; Personal Development and Career; Business and Government Relations; India;

Citation:

Nohria, Nitin, Anthony Mayo, and Mark Benson. "J. R. D. Tata." Harvard Business School Case 407-061, December 2006. (Revised April 2014.)