JRD Tata: The Man Who 'Peopled' India's Business Landscape With Care Was Born Today

In many ways, a watershed moment unfolded in 1947 when Tata Steel established a Personnel Department, which was something of a first in the corporate world at the time

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The biggest challenge for Indian companies this year is attracting and retaining talents, found a recent survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson. Although the Covid pandemic's outbreak two years ago exacerbated human resource problems within enterprises, their inception dates back to the pre-Independence era, where employees and workers echoed the Dickensian factory 'hands', given the lack of law-mandated benefits and facilities. In many ways, a watershed moment unfolded in 1947 when Tata Steel established a Personnel Department—something of a first in the corporate world at the time. The man at the helm of this change was renowned industrialist Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, whose birth anniversary falls today, i.e. on July 28.

JRD Tata

The story goes, one day when JRD was seriously ill in July 1943, he wrote from his sick bed a thoughtful 2,500-word note on human relations in Tata Steel, "If we have 50,000 machines, we would undoubtedly have a special staff or a department to look after them… but when employing 30,000 human beings, each with a mind of his own, we seem to have assumed that they would look after themselves, and that there was no need for a separate organisation to deal with human problems involved." Subsequently, he introduced the 8-hour Work Day at Tata Steel's Jamshedpur plant in 1912, the Leave with Pay scheme in 1936 and the Workers' Provident Fund Scheme in 1920, all of which were subsequently adopted by the International Labour Organisation and enacted by law in India. These policies were also adopted by other Tata organisations.

Tata Steel seems to have continued on the path laid out by its legendary chief. The company has been recently recognised, for the second time, amongst India's top 10 most attractive employer brands in India by Randstad Employer Brand Research (REBR).

"We target to achieve gender diversity with 25% women and 25% diversity mix (Individuals who are Affirmative Action (AA)/Persons with Disabilities (PWD)/LGBTQ+) in our workforce by FY 2025-26," the company said about its plans to enhance employee welfare.

On his predecessor's birthday today, industrialist Ratan Tata shared a heartfelt message on Twitter: "I remember JRD fondly on his 118th birth anniversary as a warm hearted and caring human being who had an enormous influence in my life. We shared many common interests, but what I really miss is his affection and kindness. Although Jeh is not with us, his legend will continue."

Indeed, a very happy birthday to you, JRD.