Taking to the skies
JRD Tata (1904-1993) had started India's first commercial airline, Tata Airlines, in the 1930s. After Independence, it was nationalised and renamed Air India.
Though the Tata Group was out of the airline, the business always remained close to its heart. In the 1990s, when the sector was opened up for private companies, Ratan Tata knew the time had come.
He quickly put together an alliance with Singapore Airlines to start a domestic carrier. Then, the laws changed overnight.
Foreign airlines were barred from owning even a single share in a domestic carrier. Tata's proposed airline with Singapore Airlines never took off. Who stymied the plans?
Maharaj Kishen Kaw, a former bureaucrat who was the civil aviation secretary when Inder Kumar Gujral was the prime minister (April 1997 to March 1998), in his book, An Outsider Everywhere: Revelations by an Insider, has said that it was the handiwork of Tata's rivals.
"The Tatas had mooted a proposal for a private airline with 40 per cent equity contribution from Singapore Airlines. As this would have been a formidable competitor, Jet (Airways) tried hard to upset rules regarding foreign equity contribution," Kaw wrote.
He said that CM Ibrahim, the then civil aviation minister, was not convinced about the Tata proposal. The minister did not clear the file, despite several attempts on my part," Kaw added.
Text: Business Standard
Image: JRD Tata with Nevill Vintcent on his left at the Juhu airstrip in Bombay (now Mumbai) on October 15, 1932, after the first historic flight of the subcontinent landed from Karachi. The plane was piloted by JRD Tata.
Image courtesy: Tata Central Archives