Veteran industrialist BK Birla passes away in Mumbai

BK Birla, 98, is survived by his daughters Jayshree Mohta and Manjushree Khaitan, while his son Aditya Vikram Birla, father of Kumar Mangalam Birla, died in October 1995

By PTI  
Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Birla Group patriarch and a doyen of the Indian industry Basant Kumar Birla passed away in Mumbai on Wednesday at the age of 98.

His family said Birla had been suffering from age-related ailments.

Birla was the chairman of Century Textiles and Industries and was active in business since the age of 15.

He was instrumental in a slew of business initiatives, starting with his stint as the chairman of Kesoram Industries. He was also a patron of nearly 25 educational institutions across the country - from BITS Pilani and Birla Institute of Liberal Arts and Management Science to B K Birla Centre for Education in Pune, Birla Institute of Management Technology in Delhi, and Ashok Hall Girls' High School in Kolkata.

Birla is survived by daughters Manjushree Khaitan and Jayshree Mohta, who run Kesoram Industries and Jayshree Tea and Industries respectively. His wife Sarala Birla predeceased him in 2015. His only son Aditya Vikram Birla had died in 1995.

His grandson Kumarmangalam Birla had taken him to Mumbai due to his failing health.

Birla's body would be brought to his house at Birla Park in Kolkata and the cremation will take place on Thursday.

The seat of the Birla brothers in the city -- Birla Building -- will remain closed on Thursday as a mark of respect.

Born in 1921, Birla was the youngest son of philanthropist Ghanshyam Das Birla.

By the time he was 15, he was already actively associated with a large number of companies and eventually became the chairman of Kesoram Industries.

He focussed on industries such as cotton, viscose, polyester and nylon yarns, refractory, paper, shipping, tyrecord, transparent paper, spun pipe, cement, tea, coffee, cardamom, chemicals, plywood and MDF Board.

The B K Birla group comprised Century Textiles, Century Enka and Jayshree Tea and Industries besides Kesoram Industries.

Birla was also the chairman of the Krishnarpan Charity Trust, which runs B K Birla Institute of Engineering and Technology at Pilani.

His death was condoled by the industry and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

"Saddened at the passing of noted industrialist Basant Kumar Birla Ji. His contribution to education, through various trusts and institutions, is paramount. My condolences to his family, colleagues and friends," Banerjee said in a tweet.

Sanjiv Goenka, chairman of RP Sanjiv Goenka Group, said Birla "led transformational thoughts in Indian industry".

The Goenka and the Birla families have cherished very close relationships over decades, he said, adding Birla's death was a huge loss.

Harsh Vardan Neotia of Ambuja Neotia Group called Birla a "colossus", a man of integrity and discipline, a great benefactor of the arts and patron to many cultural and educational institutions across the country.

"In his passing away we have lost a tall business leader and philanthropist," he added.

Sitaram Sharma, president of Bharat Chamber of Commerce, said that the country has lost an industrialist with vision, innovative ideas and pragmatism. "We, the generation of entrepreneurs have always looked upon him as one of the founding fathers of Indian industries and there is no doubt that the gap created by his sudden demise can never be filled."

Sanjay Budhia, Patton group MD, said "We have lost a father figure of the Indian industry. A philanthropist, visionary, creator, doer and giver... This is a void that cannot be filled."

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