A Century of Trust
The origins and ascent of Tata Steel, which has culminated into the century long history of an industrial empire, emerge from the illustrious efforts of India's original iron man and the remarkable people who thereafter, have kept the fire burning.
The story of Tata Steel is a century old. And so is the story of steel in India. Etched with the visions and hardships of a single man, the story has flowed through ages to re-define steel in every way. The saga, which started in 1907, completed a century of trust in 2007 and carries on. Over the years this one company has discovered different avenues of effective steel utilisation and its story defines and re-defines conventional wisdom in more ways than one.
As India was left slightly dazzled and overwhelmed in the wake of the Industrial Revolution in England the leading Indian intellectuals of the 19th century believed that if India were to keep pace with the world it would have to master the modern scientific methods of the West. It was this vision of constructive change that led Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata to embark on a journey of growth that paved the path for industrialisation in India. Within his lifetime, Jamsetji was to witness the birth of a revolutionary Indian nationalism that would assist in the emergence of independent India, the spirit of which could already be felt when he died in 1904.
In his lifetime J.N.Tata was captivated and led by the three guiding stars - building an iron and steel company, generating hydro-electric power and creating an institution that offer the best education in science.
Jamsetji Tata had started his quest for steel way back in 1882 but it was twenty-five years later, in December 1907 that the explorers found their way to Sakchi - at the confluence of the rivers Subarnarekha and Kharkai. On 27th February 1908 when the first stake was driven into the soil of Sakchi the dream had come alive.
When Tatas issued shares on 26th August 1907, for the first time in the financial history of the country, the Indian people - the masses, the affluent and the common people -joined hands to put up the first truly Indian enterprise. The Tata family contributed the remaining 11% shares of the Tata Iron and Steel Company Limited.
It did not take long for work to begin thereafter. In 1908 the plant became functional and the next year, in 1909 the blast furnaces, steel furnaces, coke ovens, powerhouse and machine shops were laid down. Land for the site, mines and quarries were acquired in 1910. The Government contributed their bit by connecting railway to Gorumahisani. The first steel ingot was rolled on 16th February 1912 - a momentous day in the history of industrial India.
The Steel Company obtained its first colliery in 1910, adding six more in course of time. Several mines were spread over the states of Bihar, Orissa and Karnataka. The Tatas soon became the first to own a fully mechanised iron ore mine in India at Noamundi. The Coal Beneficiation Plant at West Bokaro undertook beneficiation of low-grade coal, thus helping in the conservation of the fast dwindling resources of high quality coal. The collieries, the mines and the quarries together furnish the bulk of the raw material requirements of the plant.
When the entire world was reeling in the Great Depression, the Tatas survived and supplied nearly three-fourth of the country’s steel requirements. By the Second World War, Tatas’ production capacities had expanded enough to make their prices lower than those of steel produced in England, raising them to an authoritarian position. Post-Independence the Tatas decided to set on the Herculean task of nation building. The much-required steel for the newly devised Five-year Plans came from the Tata factories. The Company undertook the Howrah Bridge in Calcutta, the Bhakra-Nangal Project and the Damodar Valley Corporation, the port at Kandla, the city of Chandigarh and many more important projects.
The last decade of the twentieth century happened to be a very hectic period of self-renewal and growth for Tata Steel. An extensive technological overhaul, several improvement projects, cost control measures, optimising IT support and a strong customer-centric approach were all instrumental in finding the right direction for changing outlooks. At the turn of the millennium, Tata Steel had earned the complete trust of the whole wide world and emerged as a strong entity in the global steel industry.
The last decade has been marked by Tata Steel’s prominent role in the overall development of the country, even during phases of economic turbulence and its decisive foray into more and more global territory. Intense strategic thinking about future expansions, plans for organic growth and initiation of new projects are a few highlights in Tata Steel’s expanding and more penetrative roles in the larger perspective. The acquisition of NatSteel in 2004 was Tata Steel’s first overseas acquisition and the series of joint ventures and mergers that followed found a peak when the acquisition of Corus, happened in April 2007. But in every positive step that the Company has taken towards growth and expansion, involving diverse cultures and geographies, Tata Steel has never lost sight of its great heritage of social and community responsibility.
From the very beginning the Tatas invested substantial time and resources to enhance the human capital. The farsightedness of the Tatas, to access the future much in advance has always kept them in the forefront. The organisation has always focused on the long-term collective objectives rather than short-lived, immediate gains. Hence they succeeded not only in building a steel factory but also in the re-creation of a nation.
The Tatas were the first employers to introduce the 8-hour working day (1912), free medical aid (1915), workers’ provident fund scheme (1920) and many other welfare schemes even before they were introduced in the West. The “employee association with management” programme initiated in 1956 gave the workers a stronger voice in the affairs of the Company.
Hence, the story that began with a zest for adventure expanded into an ever-evolving saga of achievement and excitement. Having started out the hard way, at a time when India had no industrial base, self-reliance has become a way of life with Tatas. The humane dialogue initiated by Jamsetji Tata fostered an attitude of mutual trust and concern, which characterises Tata relationships even today.
The story of Tata’s achievements is a collective effort of people who sank differences of caste, creed, race and status to strive for a common goal- excellence. They offered their best as an expression of a sense of belonging, a sense of commitment to the family of which they were a part - the Tatas.