Jagannath Nana Shankar Shett was born on October 10, 1803 into a rich and established Bombay business house. In fact, Gunbow Street, housing Bombay's first court, was named after his grandfather, Ganba Shett.
Known for his business acumen and philanthropy, he was one of the key figures in the setting up of the Elphinstone College, and became a member of the Bombay Board of Education. Nana was the first Indian member of the Asiatic society, and is known to have endowed a school and donated land in Grant Road for a theatre.
In 1845, along with Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, he formed the Indian Railway Association. Eventually, with the incorporation of the GIP railways, the two became the only Indians among the ten directors of the GIP railways. When the first train in India made a run between Bombay and Thana, as a director, he took the 45 minute ride.
The British suspected that he was involved with the First War of Independence, but acquitted him for lack of evidence. Later he became the first Hindu member of the Bombay Legislative Council. He died on July 31, 1865.