A Labour Of Love

Independent India’s very first management institute, XLRI, turns 75 this year. As XLRI celebrates its Platinum Jubilee, a look back upon the building blocks, the stabilising steps and the vision for the future of this redoubtable institution

A Labour Of Love

The story of XLRI is inextricably linked with that of the township of Jamshedpur. Ever since this pretty town in Jharkhand, nestled between the Dalma Hills, was founded in the first decade of the 20th century by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, it has been a city of workers, with thousands of employees and officers of various mega organisations working and living here.

In 1948 India was immersed in nation-building, the steel city had all its engines literally fired up to drive the economy of the fledgling nation. It was in this context that one day in 1949, a junior official of TISCO (Tata Iron and Steel Company, today known as Tata Steel) approached Fr John Holland, S.J., the then Treasurer of the Jesuit Mission, Jamshedpur. He held in his hand a copy of the Readers’ Digest dated January 1949 with a story on the Labour School run by Fr Philip A Carey, S.J., a Professor and Director of Xavier Institute of Industrial Relations at Fordham University, United States of America.

He suggested that the model presented by Fr Philip A Carey, S.J. could be mirrored at Jamshedpur. The official went on to urge the Jesuits, saying “if you people do not work on this, no one will. You have the means to mobilise the help needed, and you are the only people that could be trusted.” A fine challenge for a Jesuit heart who believes in the ‘Greater Glory of God’.

The founding Fathers

Fr John Holland, S.J. had arrived at Tatanagar Railway Station on January 14, 1948 along with Fr Carrol I Fasy, S.J., Fr Quinn Enright, S.J., Fr Edward Dineen, S.J., Fr James Keogh, S.J., and Fr Anderson Bakewell, S.J., a group of six dedicated Jesuits. This was in response to the decree dated February 2, 1947, by which Fr John Baptist Janssens, S.J., the then General of the Society of Jesus, created Jamshedpur mission and entrusted it to the Maryland Jesuit Province of the United States of America. With the Steel City set to be ‘home’ for some time, the Jesuit fathers rented a house affectionately known as the Pink Bungalow at 43 Circuit House Area.

Coming back to the suggestion made by the TISCO official, the idea was accepted, batted around, relayed to the Provincial (in Baltimore) Fr David Nugent, S.J. in February 1949 by Fr Carroll I Fasy, S.J. the Superior of Jamshedpur Jesuit Mission. Without any further delay, in the following month (March 1949) Fr Nugent, S.J. approved the project suggesting that either Fr Q Enright, S.J., or Fr Blandin, S.J., be entrusted with the responsibility of starting the very first ‘Labour School’ of an independent India. The lot fell on Fr Enright, S.J., who ably took it up. On October 11, 1949 with the name “Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) and with the exalted motto “you shall renew the face of the earth” (Ps 103:30), Fr Enright, S.J., started what is today the globally-acclaimed Management School, XLRI: Xavier School of Management.

In 1956, the Institute consolidated with the commencement of a two-year regular programme in Industrial Relations (IR) leading to a post graduate diploma recognized by the Central and all the State Governments of India

The initial years

Fr Enright, S.J., the founding Director of XLRI, with the help of NJ Haley, the then General Manager of TISCO, formed a core committee comprising Michael John (Union Leader), MD Madan, Dr Sukhantme, GV Apte, as well as the then Assistant Labour Commissioner. They started operating from the Boulevard Hotel in Bistupur and also started holding classes in KMPM School from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm. The committee not only oversaw the operations of the fledgling institute, but taught labour laws, wages, collective bargaining, trade unionism, parliamentary procedures and public speaking. Workers and executives from local industries were among the first students. SC Joshi, then Personnel Manager of TISCO, was a big drawing card with his classes on Labour Law.


Fr Nugent, S.J., Jesuit Provincial from Maryland (U.S.) expressed his satisfaction and wrote, “to my mind the inauguration of this Institute after no more than two years in the mission field is an outstanding feat to the credit of Jamshedpur Mission. More than that, the advanced level on which it is carried out is still more extraordinary.”

And extraordinary it was. The visionary Fr Enright, S.J., had said of the future, “XLRI will be a leaven that will make the whole leavened.” Even though XLRI began by offering short-term courses in management and trade unions in 1949, a full-time two-year programme with 70 students was started in 1953 from a set of rooms at Loyola School. The first batch of the Institute’s Post Graduate students took the M.A. in Labour and Social Welfare examination conducted by Bihar University in 1955. The faculty then consisted of Fr Q Enright, S.J. as Director and Fr EH McGrath, S.J. as Dean Academics, Prof Joe Philip, Prof Prem Lal Govil, Prof TK Karunakaran, Prof Narayan Mukherjee, Dr Subbiah Kannappan, Fr PC Antony, S.J., Fr Bill Tom, S.J., Fr Jim Collins, S.J., Fr Dominic George, S.J., Fr Dawson, S.J. and Fr Heffernan, S.J.  They were ably supported by the office staff, Maureen Watkins and JD David.

In 1956, the Institute consolidated with the commencement of a two-year regular programme in Industrial Relations (IR) leading to a Post Graduate Diploma recognized by the Central and all the State Governments of India. During the first seven years of experimentation and growth, several courses for management and trade union organizations were developed. Evaluating the importance of the Jesuit Mission to the nascent field of management education in India, the TISCO authorities offered a 4.59-acre plot of land on lease to Loyola School for XLRI. And on December 08, 1956, the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the present XLRI campus.


The vision of Fr Enright, S.J. was ably nurtured by the selfless efforts of the founding fathers of XLRI - Fr EH McGrath, S.J., Fr William N Tome, S.J., Fr Jim Collins, S.J., Fr Dawson S.J., Fr H Covely, S.J. The efforts of these six Jesuits laid a strong foundation for XLRI, the brand. The landmark Administrative Building was inaugurated in 1962 in the C.H. Area (East). TISCO supported XLRI significantly with the services through its Town Office (today known as TSUISL). Rumi Master, the Town Architect and Planner, was another major source of assistance. The park and gardens division helped XLRI immensely with the landscaping and the planting of trees that today provide the shady pathways of the serene campus. Fr RW Norman, S.J. and subsequently SC Sarkar played a major role in the development of the Student Residences, Library and the faculty offices.

The year 1969 was significant for a great friend and supporter of XLRI-VV Giri became the President of India. In 1972, the President of India VV Giri inaugurated XLRI’s Sir Jehangir Ghandy Library

After a decade of service, Fr Enright, S.J. was replaced by Fr EH McGrath, S.J., as the Director (1959-62) followed by Fr William N Tome, S.J (1962-70 & 1973-78).  Under their leadership, XLRI soon became a leader in management education in India, and a generator of top-notch talent for business organizations, government and also, other B-Schools.

Tata Steel continued – and continues – to be a generous supporter of XLRI. XLRI needed a world-class auditorium and more land to accommodate faculty quarters, student residences and the International Centre. To meet these just demands of world-class infrastructure, Tata Steel leased out an additional 36.15 acres of land in subsequent years, making XLRI a vast and beautiful 40.74-acre campus with lush lawns, lovingly-tended gardens, natural forest cover and well-designed buildings.

President VV Giri at 1963 Convocation. He is flanked by Fr Tony Roberts, S.J. & Sir Jehangir Ghandy

The Sixties story

Come the Sixties, XLRI withdrew from the M.A. programme and relied on their own Honours Diplomas. One of XLRI’s most significant contributions in this decade was that, in collaboration with the steel unions, it helped start the Steel Workers’ College. This started with union courses in the various steel centres: Durgapur, Burnpur, Rourkela, Bokaro, Jamshedpur and Bhilai. The support of unionists VG Gopal, Gopeshwar, SL Passey and Ben Sharman was crucial to this endeavour. The one-month course run in Jamshedpur for unionists was very popular. Eventually, the Steel Workers’ Federation decided to take over the programme and set up the college in Kadma, Jamshedpur under their own supervision.

Fr EH McGrath, S.J., with his unrelenting commitment to the uplift and wellbeing of workers, dedicated his life to provide justice to the labour force. Taking a leaf out of Fr Philip Carey’s life, he became a greatly respected labour mediator and through his writings, training programmes and personal association with members of the working class, he attained iconic status. Fr McGrath, S.J. was even called to mediate between the TISCO management and its labour union.

At that point in its history, India needed more and more formally educated management professionals. Heeding this need, XLRI decided to shift focus to stable regular programmes. VV Giri, who later became the third Vice President and then the fourth President of India, was the keynote speaker at the first annual convocation in 1963 in the presence of Sir Jehangir Ghandy and Fr Tony Roberts, S.J. In his closing remarks, Sir Jehangir Ghandy said, “the Institute has justified its existence. You have doubtless a great future ahead of you.”


In 1965, a three-year evening programme in Business Management was started followed in 1966 by a two-year evening programme in Management for junior executives of Jamshedpur Industrial Complex. In 1968, this was offered as a three-year programme. And in 1968 a two-year full-time programme in Business Management was started.

VV Giri’s love for XLRI saw him return to the Institute for the 1968 Annual Convocation where Naval H Tata was the convocation speaker. Sir Jehangir Ghandy conferred on Naval H Tata, the Sir Jehangir Ghandy Medal for Industrial Peace. Professors Sudas Roy, Ramesh Anand, LC Gupta, Baldev Sharma, B.R. Dey, Dr Julius Rezler were among the many who made significant contributions besides
P Jayarajan, the Chief Librarian.

On January 02, 1970, the Government of India officially recognized the Institute’s two-year full-time and three-year part-time Post Graduate diplomas in Industrial Relations, and Business Management for recruitment to supervisor posts and services under the Central Government, for which an MBA degree or equivalent diploma from a recognized institution is prescribed as a qualification.

Classroom in 60s’

Shifting gears to higher goals

It was now 1969. The Jamshedpur Jesuit Province had managed all the affairs of XLRI since inception, along with providing unstinted support for the extensive financial, administrative and manpower requirements needed to build an institute of excellence. At this juncture, Fr William Tome, S.J. decided to register the institute under Societies Registration Act 1860 with its legal title, “Xavier Labour Relations Institute”, in order to build an independent identity and to provide top-level career opportunities to students.

All the assets so far owned by the Jamshedpur Jesuit Society at XLRI were freely and generously transferred to this newly registered society to support the Jesuit cause of supporting education. Sir Jehangir Ghandy was elected as the first Chairman of the newly constituted Board of Governors of XLRI and served XLRI as the Chairman from 1969 to 1972. Even after XLRI became an independent Society managed by a Board of Governors, the Jamshedpur Jesuit Society continued to support XLRI financially until it became self-sufficient in 1986.

Immediately after forming the new society, XLRI gained in both importance and popularity. In 1969, XLRI’s Management Development Programmes (MDP) Division was formed. These programmes in different functional areas of management, were offered to young executives who were nominated by different organizations on a need-basis. The participants who attended these programmes came all the way from neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kuwait and Bangladesh as well.

The year 1969 was significant for a great friend and supporter of XLRI - VV Giri became the President of India. In 1972, he inaugurated XLRI’s Sir Jehangir Ghandy Library. Since then, this has been the heart of the institution. The Library acts as a centre for the collection of literature predominantly related to labour relations, management and its allied subjects and intends to develop a comprehensive collection of information that is useful for teaching, research and learning purposes.


The stabilising Seventies

It is time now to talk of one of XLRI’s many magicians. Fr Richard Norman, S.J. was the magician of this moment. Nothing was too small for his attention, nor too big for his shoulders. It was in his years as Administrator at XLRI that he worked his “magic”. He directed the construction of the new buildings on the land additionally leased out by TISCO for faculty residences, a library, an office building and a 1300-seater auditorium. By 1975 “the dream” had become a reality.

Except for one thing. At the core of the programme and expansion plan as well as the justification of an expansion of this scale, was the offer made by computer giant IBM to use the XLRI computer facility to train its personnel, in return for computer equipment. Thus, in the “Research Centre” was built a dust-free, damp-free, windowless room to house the computer that would make possible the Information Management Systems. At a time when no one even in their wildest dreams thought of computers in an institution, XLRI did. Four Jesuits were sent to the US for a year’s training in computers to help XLRI become pioneers in adopting technology in advanced learning. Sadly, due to the changes in the policies of the Government of India, IBM could not  operate and the computer never became a reality- financing the type of computer envisaged was far beyond XLRI’s capabilities at that time. It took 10 more years for XLRI to start the computer lab and teach information systems.

The elevated Eighties

While the infrastructure was being planned, research was growing in importance. In response, in 1984 the Centre for Human Resource Development was established. In 1985, keeping in mind the needs of the industry, XLRI renamed its two-year full-time programme in Industrial Relations and Social Welfare to Personnel Management and Industrial Relations (PMIR). XLRI was growing in the right direction and by then, had become the most sought-after B-School in the country. This attracted the attention of the then Chief Minister of Odisha, Janaki Ballabh Patnaik, who invited XLRI to start a similar institute in Odisha. In 1987, XLRI established an independent B-School, ‘Xavier Institute of Management’, Bhubaneswar (XIMB) under the leadership of Fr Romuald D’Souza, S.J. All support in terms of land, and the first buildings was provided by the Government of Odisha.

In 1988, the Fellow Programme in Management – FPM (equivalent to Ph.D.) and Executive FPM in 2006 were started respectively. The first batch of FPM began with two scholars.

XLRI always remembers with gratitude the support staff who dedicated extra hours of their family time and served the institute in difficult and challenging times such as Maureen Watkins, JD David, A Hannan (Librarian), Keti B. Jilla (Dean’s Office), Thomas Kurisinkal (Estate Officer), Roshan Dastur (secretary to Fr McGrath who has served for more than 45 years and is still associated with the alumni office), Dorothy Mendonza, Shernaz Mirza, Marshall Fernandez and Lilly, who operated the switchboard with elan.

Learning Centre 01 at Jamshedpur Campus

With the support of the able, committed, and selfless Jesuit Fathers, faculty and staff, in the late Eighties, XLRI had achieved an independent, prime identity and brand value. The courses conducted had the approval of national Universities, till the Central Government enacted the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) law in 1993 which brought all ‘stand-alone’ technical and engineering institutions in India under its jurisdiction. From 1993, XLRI has been operating under the aegis of AICTE.

The nimble Nineties

The Nineties at XLRI was about being nimble in a decade of unprecedented change and also about making the nation take note of XLRI’s heft. As the institute was working on adapting its curriculum to fit the needs of industry, alumni inputs were recognised as an invaluable resource. So, in 1990, under the leadership of Fr E Abraham, S.J., and Prof Narayan Mukherjee, the XLRI Alumni Association was officially constituted at the first national alumni convention held in Jamshedpur. Prem Sagar was appointed the first President and Prof Madhukar Shukla played a pivotal role in carrying the association forward and linking the institute with its alumni in the years to come.

It was during this time that XLRI acted based on the feedback from industry and alumni and articulated a focus and stress on ethical aspects in business. This resulted in the establishment of the JRD Tata Foundation for Business Ethics in 1991 even though ethics had been a part of the curriculum as a core subject from 1969. Annually, the JRD Tata Oration of XLRI sees renowned, committed business leaders engaging with students and inspiring the young generation to conduct business with ethics at the core of their management practice.

In 1997, India’s first full-time General Management Programme for Executives was launched under the leadership of Fr PD Thomas, S.J. and Prof MA Vanjour. Following this, using the expertise of Prof HK Pradhan, the Centre for Small Enterprises was set up by the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) in 1998 and in 1999, the Centre for Logistics and Transportation Management was formed.

The turn of the century

It was now not just the turn of the century but of the millennium. XLRI had already been at the forefront of management education for over 50 years at this time, leading the curve every which way. Its alumni had served their organisations, their community and the nation well in varied capacities. As the year 2000 dawned, XLRI stood poised to face the new century with its attendant challenges by marking new milestones and writing glorious new chapters.

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