Was Tata 'Swadeshi' Enough?

This is an extract from Mircea Raianu's Tata: The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism published by Harvard University Press

In April 1920, the Bombay Chronicle published “The House of Tatas: Its Future and India’s Prosperity,” a damning exposé subtitled “A Danger to Jamshedji’s Life-Work.” The anonymous author claimed to be a “Friend of the Family” with special knowledge of the inner workings of the Bombay head office. The article began by recounting Jamsetji’s painstaking efforts to raise a business house that once enjoyed “no special place of honour” to a position of unchallenged preeminence. At the time of writing, Tata’s financial interests were “bigger than those of any State and in a couple of years they will be as big as the budget figures of a great Presidency.” However, the author warned that Jamsetji’s successors were jeopardizing his illustrious legacy. R. D. Tata’s cosmopolitanism came under special scrutiny, as “a French subject and married to a French lady” who could not be reliably looked upon to “maintain any National sentiments connected with the House.” The author reserved his greatest scorn for B. J. Padshah, “a dictatorial professor” who “professes a deep national life, but in practice has little faith in the capacity of Indians for any responsible positions.” Padshah’s preference for recruiting foreign personnel betrayed his belief “that the white-skinned blonde is a better man to control our destinies than a dusky Indian.” How sincere, then, was the Tatas’ appeal to swadeshi sentiments? The article concluded by recommending the establishment of “a great Indian Industrial Tata Service” to train indigenous management cadres and technical experts as a “bulwark against foreign industrial invasions.”