Remembering Sumati Morarjee – The First Woman of Indian Shipping

Sumati Morarjee, also known as the first woman of Indian shipping, is the first woman in the world to head an organization of ship owners. Let us remember her on the occasion of her birthday.

Sumati Morarjee was born on 13 March 1909, to a wealthy family in Bombay. While still a young girl she was married to Shanti Kumar Morarjee, the only son of Narottam Morarjee, the founder of Scindia Steam Navigation Company, which later grew to be India’s largest shipping firm.

She was included in the managing agency of the company in 1923 at age 14. Sumati built the company from humble beginnings and gradually developed it. She assumed full charge of the company by 1946, managing over six thousand people. She was already on the board of directors. Due to her amazing expertise in the shipping trade, she was also elected the president of the Indian National Steamship Owners’ Association in 1956, 1957, 1958 and again in 1965. It was under her supervision that the company rose to a fleet of 43 shipping vessels totalling 552,000 tonnes of dead weight.

From 1979 to 1987, she was chairperson of the company, until the government took over the debt-ridden Scindia Steam Navigation. She was later appointed as the chairperson emeritus of the company till 1992.

Sumati remained in regular touch with Mahatma Gandhi, and both met on several occasions. Their exchange was documented in newspaper reports. Gandhiji counted her among his closest friends. Between 1942 and 1946, she was involved in the underground movement for Independence with Gandhiji.

She died due to cardiac arrest on 27 June 1998 at the age of 89. 

-Staff Reporter

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