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Basant Kumar Birla: The man with a Midas Touch

Basant Kumar Birla (January 12, 1921 – July 3, 2019), the patriarch of the Birla group, was born to the powerful business magnate Mr. Ghanshyam Das Birla. The veteran industrialist and the chairman of the Birla group, widely known as ‘Babuji’ and ‘BK’ in the inner circle of business. ‘Birla’ means ‘Rare’, and he indeed lived by his name.


He was inducted into the family business, specifically in Kesoram Cotton Mills Ltd., at 15, soon after completing his matriculation. His father ensured that Basant Kumar got a feel for the business by starting at thebottom and working his way up. B.K. Birla married SaralaBiyani, the daughter of the freedom fighter BrajlalBiyani and Savitri. Mahatma Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel also attended their wedding. Gandhi’s socio-economic concept of trusteeship deeply inspired his business philosophy.

He started from the lowest position, even in his family business. BK’s first assignment was that of a cashier at Kesoram Cotton Mills Ltd. His primary focus was on industries such as cotton, polyester and nylon yarns, viscose, refractory, tyre cord, paper, shipping, transparent paper, spun pipe, cement, tea, coffee, cardamom, chemicals, plywood and MDF Board.

Business Activities

An ingenious businessman soon expanded the Birla group’s manufacturing footprint through flagship companies Kesoram Industries and Century Textiles into rayon, engineering, medium-density fibreboards, cement, pulp and paper, tea, shipping, tyres, and chemicals, among others. As soon as the government started easing control on cement, BK set to create large capacities not just through Kesoram but also under the aegis of Century Textiles and Mangalam Cements. Century Textiles and Industries is another example of his great sightedness. From a single-unit entity in 1897, it has transformed into a commercial powerhouse with interests in diverse industries, including cement, pulp, paper, and real estate. Decades before Indian corporates went on to own manufacturing units abroad, BK set up and ran a textile factory in Ethiopia.Beyond Indian shores, he led the growth of the group. Over time, the group’s leading companies were Kesoram Industries, Century Enka, Century Textiles and Industries, Mangalam Cement, and ECE Industries.

He was known to maintain cordial relations with other business houses and believed in healthy competition. It was one of the reasons why he gained immense respect in the industry. Despite being born into a wealthy and distinguished business family, B.K. Birla led a frugal life from the beginning. He reached millions of people through his ventures in a variety of fields, and his legacy will continue to live through his work.

Unknown Facts:

– Worked enthusiastically for the promotion of education in India.

– Patron of nearly 25 educational institutions, including BITS Pilani, among others.

– B.K. Birla authored several books

– An ardent lover of music, art, literature, sports and photography. Many of his photographs have been exhibited in several countries, and some have been awarded medals and certificates of merit.

– His collection of Indian Art (including the collection of Birla Academy of Art & Culture) is amongst the best private collections in India.