August 2008

Quotes: Sir Dorabji Tata

Quotations by and about Sir Dorabji Tata, that portray the depth of character of the man who strengthened the foundations of the Tata empire and built the edifice his father Jamsetji Tata had envisioned

Sir Dorabji Tata once recalled how the chief commissioner for the Indian Railways, Sir Frederick Upcott, had earlier remarked to Perin: 'Do you mean to say that Tatas propose to make steel rails to British specifications? Why, I will undertake to eat every pound of steel rail they succeed in making.' When Dorabji heard this, he commented dryly that ‘if he had carried out his undertaking, he would have had some slight indigestion.
Verrier Elvin, Story of Tata Steel

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The question of sanitation, education, healthy quarters and surroundings, recreation when off duty, are all being attended to. But personally I think enough is not being done in this direction. The health and well being of our operatives are our best assets and I would like to see a little more money spent on sanitation and healthy surroundings for our workmen. The report gives prominence to the medical relief afforded not only to our own works people but to the inhabitants of the surrounding villages from which we draw our labour. But the means at our disposal for coping with all these cases are very inadequate and I wish we could establish at our works a good and well-equipped hospital worthy of the company.
Sir Dorabji Jamsetji Tata, Chairman, Tata Iron and Steel Company, speaking at the Annual General Meeting on 7 November 1914

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The welfare of the labouring classes must be one of the first cares of every employer. Any betterment of their conditions must proceed more from the employers downward rather than be forced up by demands from below, since labour, contented, well-housed, well-fed, well-brought up generally well-looked after is not only an asset and advantage to the employer, but it also serves to raise the standard of industry and labour in the country. In looking after the labour of today, we are also securing a supply of healthy and intelligent labour for the future.    
Sir Dorabji Tata in 1917, Tata Steel, Diamond Jubilee, 1907-1967, Tata Press Ltd, 1967

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May I appeal to all who live in this land, to work in harmony and in co-operation for its general development. May I appeal to them to sink all party differences; to realise that the interests of any one set of people are closely bound up with the interests of the whole land; and that in the industrial and commercial growth of the country, the interest, both of those who have adopted it, and of those who are born of the soil, will be fully served.
Sir Dorabji Jamsetji Tata, Chairman, Tata Iron and Steel Company, speaking at the Annual General Meeting on 18 October 1917

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In the year, 1905, when Lord Curzon was on leave in Bexhill, he finally gave the green light to Dorabji Tata, by agreeing that the government would meet half the cost. Dorabji, who was educated at Caius College, Cambridge, and knew quite a bit about the West, wrote to a friend in India that year: 'One thing is certain. India is not ripe for the Institute and I doubt very much that Britain is ripe.' In prophetic tones he continued:

If we make the effort to give India what she might have we shall have achieved something, even if the institute, when established, fails to answer our expectations. It is thus, I think, that the beginnings of all great reforms take place. The man who sows never gathers the fruit. It is left to somebody else at some remote date to make the tree bear fruit. All that the man who sows ought to be content with is that the tree should remain alive so that at some future date another might give it the right treatment and make it bear fruit.

'To give India what she might have' became the lodestar of the House.
In context of the creation of the Indian Institute of Science; RM Lala, The Creation of Wealth: The Tatas from the 19th to the 21st Century (Penguin: April 2004)

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To my father the acquisition of wealth was only a secondary object in life; it was always subordinate to the constant desire in his heart to improve the industrial and intellectual condition of the people of this country; and the various enterprises which he from time to time undertook in his lifetime had for their principal object the advancement of India in these important respects. To me it is a matter of utmost regret that he is not alive today to see the accomplishment of the three cherished aims of the last years of his life – viz. Research Institute, the Iron and Steel Project and the Hydro-electric scheme…Kind fate has however permitted me to help in bringing to completion his inestimable legacy of service to the country, and it is a matter of the greatest gratification to his sons to have been permitted to carry to fruition the sacred trust which he committed to their charge.
Sir Dorabji Tata while laying the foundation stone of the Lonavala Dam, 8 February 1911. Frank Harris, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata - A Chronicle of his Life (Blackie and Son Ltd.: 1958)

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On 2 January 1919, Lord Chelmsford visited the Iron and Steel Works. He was received by Sir Dorabji Tata and some of the directors and officials. After visiting the shops and the different institutions, His Excellency, in the course of a brief speech, renamed the town 'Jamshedpur ', in honour of the man who introduced India to her own enormous resources of iron. ‘This great enterprise,' said the Viceroy, 'has been due to the prescience, imagination and genius of the late Mr Jamsetji Tata. We may well say that he has his lasting memorial in the works that we see here all round.
Frank Harris, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata - A Chronicle of his Life (Blackie and Son Ltd.: 1958)  

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The Tata Iron and Steel Co. very largely owes its existence to the perseverance and devotion with which Sir Dorabji undertook the duty of giving effect to the foresighted plans of his father Mr. JN Tata. As Chairman of the Company from its establishment in 1907 till 1932 for almost 25 years, Sir Dorabji made it his life work to put this great undertaking on a sound and stable basis and until his health began to fail he never relaxed his strenuous and constant work on its behalf.
Sir Naoroji Saklatvala in 1933. Sir NB Sakaltvala succeeded Sir Dorabji Tata as Chairman of Tata Steel and Tata Sons in 1932

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To my father the hydroelectric project was not merely a divided earning scheme; it was a means to an end … the development of the manufacturing power of Bombay. It is in that spirit that we have carried out the fruitful ideas he bequeathed to us, and it is in that spirit that we have received the far sighted financial support which made possible the construction of the work. As a business proposition pure and simple we could not have asked for, and certainly we should not have received, the financial backing, especially from the progressive Indian states, which has now fructified; the great sums of money needed were forthcoming mainly because those who commanded them believed that the scheme would assuredly play an important part in the industrial renaissance of India.
Sir Dorabji Tata at the inauguration of the Tata Hydro-electric Works on 11 February 1915. Frank Harris, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata - A Chronicle of his Life (Blackie and Son Ltd.: 1958)

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