Sumati Morarjee, also known as the first woman of Indian shipping, is credited to have become the first woman in the world to head an organisation of ship owners – Indian National Steamship Owners Association (later renamed Indian National Shipowners Association) which has been traditionally a male bastion. She has been awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honor of India in 1971 for her civil services.
On 13 March 1909 She was born to wealthy family of Mathuradas Goculdas and his wife, Premabai, in Bombay. Sumati was named Jamuna, after the sacred river associated with Krishna in Vrindavan.
She was included in the managing agency of the company in 1923 at age 20. Between 1942 and 1946, she was involved in the underground movement for Independence.
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.
She became the first woman in the world to head an organisation of ship owners — Indian National Steamship Owners Association, which was later renamed Indian National Shipowners Association. She was elected as vice-president of the World Shipping Federation, London, in 1970.
Morarjee was also involved in various social activities. She was instrumental, too, in bringing the Sindhis from Pakistan during Partition. She has also been chairperson of the Narottam Morarjee Institute of Shipping.
The Scindia Steam Navigation was taken over in 1987 by the erstwhile Shipping Credit and Investment Corporation of India after the company failed to repay the debts amounting to about Rs 1.4 billion due to the government.
Over the last 11 years, the government agency has sold all the 23 ships that the company owned. Morarjee used to call these ships her daughters.
She died due to cardiac arrest on 27 June 1998 at the age of 91.