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SUMATI MORARJEE (1909–1998)


Sumati Morarjee was a business woman. She was called the first lady of Indian shipping. She was the only daughter of the textile magnate Mathuradas Goculdas of Mumbai. At 13, she was married to Shanti Kumar, the only son of the pioneering merchant prince Narottam Morarjee. Shanti Kumar Morarjee nominated Sumati to the managing agency of the firm. After his death in 1929, the work of the company took up her attention.

She was first involved in the running of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company in 1923. Between 1942 and 1946, she took part in the freedom struggle, becoming close to Gandhi. She was president of the Indian National Shipowners’ Association in 1957, 1964 and 1970. In 1970 she was elected vice president of the World Shipping Federation, headquartered in London. From 1979 to 1987, she was chairperson of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company, until it became mired in debt of about 1.4 billion rupees and was taken over by the Shipping Credit and Investment Corporation of India. She was later appointed as the Chairperson and Managing Director Emeritus of the company till 1992. She made numerous efforts to prevent the selling off of the company’s ships, which she used to call her daughters, but with little success. At Scindia House in Mumbai, she built up a unique reference library on shipping, and in 1973 she set up the Narottam Morarjee Institute of Shipping. She was also vice president of the Nathdwara Temple Board. She was managing trustee of the Central Relief Fund, and a life member of the World Wide Fund for Nature. She was instrumental in bringing Sindhis to Indian after Partition. She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1971.
 
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