About Sir Ratan
The founder of the Tata Empire, Jamsetji Tata,
was a true nationalist who foresaw the significance
of the industrial revolution for India. He had
a desire to catapult India to a place amongst
the leading industrial nations of the world. Sir
Ratan Tata, the younger of his two sons, was born
on 20th January 1871. He was educated at St. Xavier's
College in Bombay.
Being a director in most of the Tata promoted
companies, he naturally took a keen interest in
them. After his father's death in 1904, Sir Ratan,
and his elder brother Sir Dorabji, followed in
the footsteps of their father, looking after the
Tata industrial units with a national outlook.
Inspired by their father, both sons sincerely
believed that by doing so, they were contributing
to India's industrial growth out of national interest.
Thus, Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd., the three
hydro companies and the four textile mills, were
considered by the public as examples of India's
national effort at industrial development.
Sir Ratan was extremely kind hearted and generous,
always willing to lend a helping hand to any individual
or institution in distress. He had a true Indian
outlook with a nationalistic fervour; on the other
hand, he also possessed a balanced, broad-minded
Serious charity meant making the effort to identify
a cause one deeply cared about, and then devoting
time as well as effort and money. In his short,
but satisfying lifetime, Sir Ratan had identified
several issues, which bear testimony to his munificence.
A glance at the donations and endowments made
by him during his lifetime, typifies his concern
for various deserving causes, and is an insightful
antecedent to the Trusts' present day grant-bestowing
The founding of this brotherhood in Poona, on
June 12, 1905, was the outcome of Gopal Krishna
Gokhale's conviction that if the masses were to
be liberated to function as active members of
free India, they must have a band of selfless
and intelligent workers, who would dedicate their
lives to the service of the nation.
Sir Ratan was a personal friend of Gokhale, and
upon the latter's request, gave the society an
annual amount of Rs10,000 for a period of ten
years, for its welfare work for the weaker sections
of the society. This instance of Sir Ratan's largesse
was a precursor to the present grant bestowing
policy of the Trusts, concerning the issue at hand,
and the manner in which the same can be effectively
and South Africa
During his days as a practising barrister in
Transvaal, South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi headed
a non co-operation movement, protesting against
the plight of Asians, and particularly Indians,
under the prevailing regime. The movement had
run into rough weather with the authorities, leading
to persecution of the Indian community.
Monetary aid was the need of the hour and Sir
Ratan responded generously to a plea from Gopal
Krishna Gokhale. Between 1909 and 1913, a sum
of Rs1.25 lakhs was disbursed by him, in instalments,
enabling the Mahatma to continue his fight for
the rights of Indians in South Africa.
Overwhelmed by the magnanimity of one such instalment
made by Sir Ratan, the Mahatma wrote, "That India
has been roused is evident from the generous gift
of Mr Ratanji Jamshedji Tata. By his big donation
of Rs25,000 he has given a powerful impetus to
our movement. He will probably be followed by
other Indians. Parsis are known the world over
for their generous gifts. Mr Tata has been true
to that spirit of generosity."
Sir Ratan Tata
Foundation at the London School of Economics &
In 1912, Sir Ratan made an offer of financial
help to the University of London, if they would
be willing to institute a Chair in the University,
for investigation and research into causes of
destitution and poverty, and for suggestions for
relief. Principal Sir William Miera prepared a
scheme in conjunction with Professor LT Hobhouse
and Professor Urwick, which was approved by Sir
Ratan, and a Chair was founded in 1913.
Sir Ratan agreed to pay £1,400 annually
for a period of three years, toward the expenses
of the Foundation. This annual grant of £1,400
was extended for a period of five years from 1916.
After his demise in 1919, the Trustees of Sir
Ratan Tata Trust continued this annual grant until
During those nineteen years, several scholars
and students of the University of London and the
London School of Economics, carried out research
work on the conditions of labour in different
trades, and published their research in different
publications. The Sir Ratan Tata Foundation is
now a permanent institution at the London School
excavations at Pataliputra in Patna
About the year 1912, Sir Ratan expressed a desire
to Sir Harcourt Butler, the then Lt. Governor
of Bihar & Orissa, to finance any archaeological
excavations which the Archaeological Department
of the Government of India would undertake, to
unearth ancient relics, having museum value.
A sum of Rs75,000 was financed, between 1913
and 1917. The excavations unearthed a good number
of museum finds like coins, plaques and terracotta.
It also led to the discovery and location of the
Pillared Hall of the Palace of Ashoka, now displayed
in the museum at Patna.
Sir Ratan Tata
Sir Ratan was a connoisseur of art and culture.
He was also a prolific traveller, touring many
places in India, to obtain pictures, paintings,
manuscripts of ancient literature, besides items
like rare Indian shawls, and old Indian arms like
daggers, guns and swords.
He purchased a collection of jade, in different
colours, made up of vases, snuff bottles and ornamental
figures during his visits to Paris. In Twickenham,
England, he purchased a stately 17th century mansion.
It was a traditional red brick structure, set
in its own grounds, with a French chateau frontage.
Called 'York House', this was the residence of
Sir and Lady Tata during their stay in England.
With various treasures of art, this piece of property
was a veritable treasure emporium.
On his tour of the Orient, he purchased blue
and white china, and Japanese wall hanging ornaments
in ivory. This collection, valued at approximately
Rs5 lakh in 1919, was handed over to the Prince
of Wales Museum, Bombay, in 1921, as per directives
in Sir Ratan's will. The entire collection is
displayed in the Far Eastern Art section at the
museum, and bears testimony to Sir Ratan's fine
taste in art and of course, his generosity.
These were some of the few outstanding instances
to highlight the charitable work of Sir Ratan,
during his lifetime. Numerous other benefactions
of a lesser magnitude included donations for the
relief of distress caused by famines, floods,
earthquakes, fires, and for public memorials,
hospitals, schools, institutions of social welfare
and several other objects of public utility.
A definite link with the present context of the
Trusts' thematic areas is but evident.
With such good work to his credit in his lifetime,
it was to be expected that Sir Ratan would leave
behind the bulk of his wealth into a charitable
Trust. In his Will of 1913, he instructed his
Trustees about the several directions in which
they could devote the income from the Trust funds.
"Education, learning and industry in all
their branches" find a prominent place in
Sir Ratan's suggestions. Though full discretion
to interpret these wishes was given, he also gave
detailed directions in his Will, about how the
money was to be utilised.
The objects to be aided by the funds were to
be public in general, in preference to sectional.
The institutions or organisations to be aided
had to subject their accounts to periodic audits
by the Trustees. The ventures to be aided needed
to have their schemes carefully prepared by competent
personnel. Looked at in perspective, these concepts
of charity were ahead of their time, and even
today, are considered exceptional in the context
Sir Ratan became very ill around July 1916. He
was taken to England in October 1916, upon his
doctor's advice. Despite the best possible treatment,
his condition steadily deteriorated. After a prolonged
illness, he died in St. Ives in Cornwall on 5th
September 1918, leaving behind his wife Lady Navajbai.
The Sir Ratan Tata Trust was established in 1919
with a corpus of Rs8 million. Today, it exists
as one of India's oldest grant bestowing foundations.