The Elders of Tata: India’s Forgotten Fathers of Conscious Capitalism

The Elders of Tata: India’s Forgotten Fathers of Conscious Capitalism

by Josh Caplan
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Josh Caplan is a social entrepreneur forever unhappy with the status quo.

Monday, January 12, 2015 - 2:30pm


In each sector of public life, there are heroes we adore. For music, it's The Beatles and Michael Jackson. In the sports world, Michael Jordan fits the bill. So while social entrepreneurs like myself may not attempt to lip sync or slam-dunk, we have our own heroes to look up to. I myself am eternally inspired by social entrepreneurship pioneers, Dr. Muhammad Yunus and Bill Drayton having started my own social enterprise, Tea of the People, an innovative tea company on a mission to drive the tea space in a healthier, more socially conscious direction. The founders of the Grameen Bank and Ashoka Fellowship, respectively, these towering figures have established conscious business as a field of study, lifted countless people out of poverty and inspired thousands of entrepreneurs around the globe. While I largely agree with the conventional narrative of social entrepreneurship, I believe its earliest history should include Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata and his son Dorabji Tata, the founders of India’s modern economy. The forebears of Indian business titan Ratan Tata, they were among the earliest adopters of the stakeholder approach and placed a majority of the Tata Group in the control of public trusts. 

Born March 3rd 1839, in South Gujaret, India, J.N. Tata got his first taste of business at the age of 14. J.N. Tata attended Elphinstone College, graduating in 1858. The recent graduate joined his father's trading firm after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, an attempt by the Indian populace to overthrow their British rulers. It was during these turbulent times where J.N. Tata’s patriotism was crystalized. He witnessed a gap in political leadership, directly resulting in a dismal India economy and concluded only an industrial India can secure a bright future for itself. And so began the personal journey of the future godfather of India’s industrial sector, setting out to build a prosperous nation, achieving political objectives of peace and stability through business activities.

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Josh Caplan is a social entrepreneur forever unhappy with the status quo. After a stint in the real estate investment space, he founded Tea of the People with the mission of pushing the tea industry in a more healthier and socially-conscious direction. Josh has pieces of paper from Concordia University, McGill University and Stanford University. Josh is a Fellow at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Carnegie New Leader at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Young Leader at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an Emerging Leader in Environmental and Energy Policy at the Atlantic Council. Guilty pleasures include, but are not limited to, listening to disco, wearing cowboys boots and eating absolutely anything with coconut in it.