Jamsetji Tata was born to Nusserwanji and Jeevanbai Tata on 3 March 1839 in Navsari, a small town in South Gujarat. Nusserwanji Tata was the first businessman in a family of Parsi Zoroastrian priests. He moved to Bombay and started trading. Jamsetji joined him in Bombay at the age of 14 and enrolled at the Elphinstone College. He was married to Hirabai Daboo while he was still a student. He graduated from college in 1858 and joined his father's trading firm.
Jamsetji worked in his father's firm till the age of 29. In 1868, he started a trading company with a seed capital of Rs. 21,000. In 1869, he acquired a bankrupt oil mill in Chinchpokli, converted it into a cotton mill and renamed the mill to Alexandra Mill. He sold the mill two years later for a healthy profit. Thereafter he set up a cotton mill in Nagpur in 1874. He christened it Empress Mill on 1 January 1877 when Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress of India.
The period following the establish of Empress Mill was the most poignant period of Jamsetji's life. Over the next thirty years till his death in 1904, Jamsetji laid the foundations for the Tata Group as we know it today.
The company started by Jamsetji Tata came to be known as the Tata Group and is today among the largest and most respected companies of India. Jamsetji, was however, known for much more than just starting a company. He was a pioneer in his field and thought way ahead of his times. When he started the Empress Mills in Nagpur, he didn't just think of novel ways to manufacture textiles, he also put in place very good labour practices. This was long before any labour laws came into existence.
He was also a nationalist. Though India remained under British rule while he was alive, he interacted with activists such as Dadabhai Naoroji and Pherozeshah Mehta. He was strongly influenced by their thinking. However, he always maintained that political freedom must be accompanied by economic self sufficiency. Not only did he manage to create thousands of jobs, he paved the way for many future enterprises.
Jamsetji was the first Indian to own a car. Today, the company he had started is making cars like the one below. Tata Motor is taking these cars to the African subcontient.