The Naval Tata Hockey Academy in Jamshedpur is a Joint Initiative of Tata Trusts and Tata Steel and is named in honour of Mr. Naval Tata's contribution to the development of hockey in India.
He was born in Bombay on 30 August 1904 in a middle class Parsi family. Naval was only four years old when he lost his father in 1908, who was a Spinning Master in the Advanced Mills at Ahmedabad. After death of his father family shifted to Navsari, where the family survived on modest resources that were supplemented by his mother’s income from embroidery work. The young Naval was later put in as boarder at the J. N. Petit Parsi Orphanage by family friends in an effort to support the family.
In a fortunate turn of event, which changed Naval's fortune and life was when Navajbai wife of Ratanji Tata adopted Naval while he was still at the orphanage. Naval was 13 when he was adopted by Lady Tata. Naval later graduated from Bombay University in Economics and proceeded to London for a short course in Accountancy.
He never forgot his past and once said:
I am grateful to God for giving me an opportunity to experience the pangs of poverty, which more than anything (else) moulded my character in later years of my life.
In 1930, he joined the Tata Sons as a despatch clerk-cum-assistant secretary and soon rose to be the Assistant Secretary of Tata Sons Ltd. In 1933, he became the Secretary to the Aviation Department and five years later, he joined as an executive in the Textiles Department. Soon he proved his merit and in 1939 he became the Joint Managing Director of the Tata Mills — the controlling company of the textile mills run by Tatas and became its Managing Director in 1947. On February 1, 1941, he became a Director of Tata Sons. He took over as the Managing Director of Tata Oil Mills Co Ltd in 1948. He was also the chairman of the Ahmedabad Advance Mills, a Tata group company based at Ahmedabad.
Over the years he became Chairman of the other textile mills and the three electric companies. From an active director he later became the Deputy Chairman of Tata Sons. He was directly responsible for the management of the three Tata electric companies, the four textile mills and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust. He was the longest serving colleague and close associate of JRD Tata on board of Tata Sons.
Naval Tata went on to become an internationally recognised authority in labour relations, becoming a member of the International Labour Organization's governing body in 1949. His involvement with the International Labour Organisation for over three decades was very fruitful for India. Naval holds the record of being elected to the governing body of the International Labour Organization thirteen times. He is founder of ILO's family planning programme. He is author of reports like — In Pursuit of Industrial Harmony: An Employer's Perspective by Naval H. Tata (1976), A Policy for Harmonious Industrial Relations (1980), On Wage Problem and Industrial Unrest by Naval H. Tata, C. V. Pavaskar, B. N. Srikrishna (1982)
He contributed to sports, was associated with a host of other activities, and held senior offices in social, educational and welfare work. He was President of Indian Hockey Federation for fifteen years and was at helm when Indian hockey team won Olympic Gold in 1948, 1952 and 1956.
As a philanthropist, the Indian Cancer Society was established in 1951 by Naval Tata and Dr. D. J. Jussawalla, which is India's first voluntary, non-profit, national organisation for awareness, detection, cure and survivorship of those affected with this disease. He served as Chairman of the Indian Cancer Society for over 30 years.
He was also the President of the Auxiliary Forces Welfare Association and trustee of several philanthropic trusts.
He was President of the Employers Federation of India for several years. Having been associated with the organisation for four decades, on his retirement as its President, he was made its "President Emeritus".
He differed in opinion with his cousin and long standing colleague, JRD Tata. While JRD wanted to steer clear of politics, Naval stood as an independent candidate from South Bombay in 1971 but lost elections.
Naval was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India on Republic Day, 1969. The same year he was given recognition for his role in industrial peace and awarded the Sir Jehangir Ghandy Medal. He was conferred the life membership of the National Institute of Personnel Management.