Ratan Tata’s paternal grandmother, whose birth anniversary was marked last week, on September 23, was a woman who stood tall. She was the first woman director of Tata Sons – a position she assumed in 1925 – and was known to be a generous philanthropist. The group paid its tribute to Lady Navajbai Tata last week.
Brand Custodian of Tata Sons, Harish Bhat, took to social media to share snippets of her life as a tribute to Lady Navajbai Tata.
“She was the first woman Director of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata group. Appointed a Director in 1925, she held the position right until her demise in 1965,” stated the post.
Lady Navajbai Tata was married to Sir Ratan Tata, who was the younger son of Jamsetji Tata. She was widowed in 1918, at the age of 41 years but managed the vast estate after that.
Bhat said that Navajbai was also known for her generosity. When a social worker requested her to establish a convalescent home, she donated her manor in Matheran, ‘Homestead’, for the cause, along with a donation of Rs 3 lakh. The amount was significantly large for that time.
She established the Sir Ratan Tata Institute (RTI) in Mumbai in 1928. The objective was to provide employment to the poor and needy women and training them and offering them livelihoods. “Needy women were trained in cookery, hand embroidery, tailoring and laundry divisions,” said Bhat.
Lady Navajbai Tata became the Chairperson of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust in 1932.
JRD Tata apparently consulted her on all important developments of the firm and always received sound advice. She used to ensure that the company was acting in line with the principles and ideals set by Jamsetji Tata.
Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Trusts and Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons had once said, "She was a wonderful, wonderful person of the old world, from whom one learnt a lot. I owe her an enormous amount of gratitude for what she did for me throughout my life."
Bhat wrote in the post, “While Lady Navajbai Tata's generosity touched many people, her achievements have been known only to a few.”
Navajbai Tata was born to the Sett family – also known for its philanthropy. Both Ratan and Navajbai Tata lived partly in England, and were personal friends of King George V and Queen Mary. They got married in 1892. Sir Ratan Tata was knighted in 1916 for his services to humanity.