The Wrong Precedent
December 5, 2007
Towards God…?
December 5, 2007

A Company India could be truly proud of

Romance of Tata Steel Someone once convinced Jamsetji Tata that ‘the country which will have Steel would have Gold’. Ever since then he passionately pursued the idea as a dream. His beginning was not fine, yet he never gave up for giving India its own Steel Industry. He had to wait for years until he could meet Lord George Hamilton for availing the cooperation of the Raj for his steel industry. He traveled miles to bring in the best talent to work for, from world over. Sad, but true, he expired before Tata Iron and Steel Co. began its operations in 1907.

In 1904 R D Tata was at Jamsetji’s beside in his last days and reminded him of the honor he had brought to the family’s name. The late founder is noted to have said ‘If you cannot make it greater at least preserve it. Do not let things slide. Go on doing my work and increasing it, but if you cannot, do not loose what we have already done.’ For Jamsetji ‘Nothing was worth attempting that will not benefit the nation.’ A creed carried on by his successors for a century now.

The journey of Tata Steel was not without constraints. In 1924 the company was reeling under these blows when a cable arrived from Jamshedpur saying that there was no money for wages. Sir Dorab and R. D. Tata went to the Imperial Bank and pledged their entire personal fortune worth Rs 1 crore, including their family’s jewellery, to raise the sum needed for a public limited company with 30,000 shareholders. In the same year British-Indian government had to enact for saving the company – a debt which was paid back in the years that followed.

After World War II, Lord Chelmsford then Viceroy visited Sakchi and applauded Tata Steel’s contribution. It was during the same visit that name of town, Sakchi, was changed to Jamshedpur. Besides the steel, Tatas had also produced armored plating for cars called as ‘Tatanagar’ of which the British troops could swear off at the time.

Speaking to shareholders in October 1923, R. D. Tata, then Chairman said: “We are constantly accused by people of wasting money in the town of Jamshedpur. We are asked why it should be necessary to spend so much on housing, sanitation, roads, hospitals and on welfare… Gentlemen, people who ask these questions are sadly lacking in imagination. We are not putting up a row of workmen’s huts in Jamshedpur – we are building a city.”

Whenever Tata Steel has an industrial base, it has reached out its hand and expertise to others. Furthering its partnership with Jharkhand government and its people, it is committed to contribute 25 Crore every year, for the next thirty years, to a government-run health insurance scheme for the state’s Below Poverty Line (BPL) families who would avail a medical insurance umbrella at zero cost.

Not many may know that the steel used in Howrah Bridge at Calcutta are fabricated almost entirely from TISCROM – manufactured at Tata Steel. Interesting to know is also the fact that Bachendri Pal, the first woman to be on the top of the Everest, hoisted, along with India and Nepalese flags, a flag that belonged to Tata Steel, on reaching the peak. These and more are testimony to the fact ‘Tata Steel has created not just steel for a nation’ but more.

The book also has stories of deep human interest like that of Suniti Bose, sister of a Tata Steel employee at a colliery, who was blinded by an illness as a child. Tata Steel gave her a stipend to study Braille at Dehra Dun Center for Training of the Blind. After which Jamshedpur gave her the task of sticking buttons on uniforms of Tata Steel staff. When a man called Kishan Narayan Bose came along and offered to marry her. The well-off ladies of the company decided that she would have a marriage as good as most; so they collected money, got shopkeepers to donate saris and even some silver jewellery to marry off Suniti in style.

Nevertheless author R M Lala has did a very laudable job of bringing out a splendid documentation of India’s finest and most respect business organization which can proudly boast of more case studies in its name than any other company in IIM curriculum – 21 in all.

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