Born On: November 14, 1943
Born In: Kolkata, West Bengal
Died On: October 1, 1995
The grandson of the legendary G.D. Birla, Aditya Vikram Birla was one of the most inspirational and outstanding industrialists that India has ever had. His innovative ideas and marvelous abilities helped India to expand trade to foreign countries, thereby leaving an indelible mark on the corporate landscape. He was one of the first Indian industrialists to set up the largest multinational empire, thereby creating India’s first truly global corporation. Apart from carrying forward his grandfather’s legacy, he introduced the concept of “sustainable livelihood”, wherein he taught people to work and feed themselves and their families for lifetime rather than simply living on the food given. With this, he not only gained name and fame amongst the masses but also set an example for other businessmen to learn from him. With his magnificent and phenomenal efforts to develop his business across India and overseas, he became the new face of Indian business - professional, modern, and forward looking.
Aditya Vikram Birla was born to the industrialist Basant Kumar Birla and Sarala Birla in Kolkata in West Bengal. He was the grandson of the legendary G.D. Birla, a prominent industrialist and founder of the vast Birla industrial empire. The latter had good terms with Mahatma Gandhi and began his fortune with building the popular Ambassador car and aluminum prospecting. Aditya received his formal education from Kolkata and graduated in science from St. Xavier’s College. He then went to United States to pursue higher studies in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After Aditya completed his degree course in chemical engineering, he returned to India and was handed over a part of Birla Company to run. Not to be satisfied with just that, he started his own textile business with Eastern Spinning Mills that became an instant hit in Kolkata. With this, he put the company’s sinking rayon and textile business back on track. This was, however, just the beginning as he showed immense interest and paved the group towards success with every assignment handed over. Aditya’s next challenge was the expansion of the group’s oil sector which again was a victorious attempt. However, with Indira Gandhi’s socialist ideas of preventing foreign trade, importing world-class technology, and expansion of old plants, Aditya concentrated on Indian rayon with accepting bigger challenges of taking it worldwide. Instead of moving towards the West, Aditya focused on the east and set up Indo-Thai Synthetics Company Ltd. in Thailand in 1969, thereby launching the group’s first overseas company.
After the flying success of Indo-Thai Synthetics Company Ltd., Aditya established P.T. Elegant Textiles for manufacturing spun yarn in Indonesia in 1973. This was the company’s first venture there. In 1974, he incorporated the group’s Viscose Rayon Staple Fiber as Thai Rayon in Thailand. In the following year in 1975, the first Indo-Filipino joint venture producing spun yarn was established with The Indo Phil Group of Companies in The Philippines. Over the next few years, Aditya launched several more companies and joint ventures throughout the Southeast. He established Pan Century Edible Oils in Malaysia in 1977, which later became the world’s largest single-location palm oil refinery. In 1978, he launched the group’s first carbon black company, Thai Carbon Black in Thailand and in 1982, P.T. Indo Bharat Rayon in Indonesia. These were just some efforts that transformed the Birla Group into a blooming blue-chip company and one of India’s largest business conglomerates. Aditya, himself became one of India’s foremost businessmen. With immense profits from overseas joint industrial ventures, Birla Group became the largest multinational company set up by a resident Indian industrialist. By the 1980s, Aditya had established 19 companies in South and Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Contribution to India
It was under the dynamic and influential leadership of Aditya Birla that the company was able to intensify and firm its presence in the core sectors. Even before the word globalization was included in India’s dictionary, Aditya set up a global business empire, thereby placing India on the world map in 1969. Under his guidance, the companies were making immense profits in key sectors of textiles, cement, aluminum, chemicals, fertilizers, fiber, financial services, sponge iron, software, and petro-refinery. Aditya is said to be highly responsible for building and improving the country’s commodity business. With the marvelous success of his Grasim, Hindalco, Indian Rayon, and Indo Gulf Fertilizers, he helped several companies prosper.
Though his companies had over 70,000 employees, Aditya was actually generating indirect employment for more than 2 lakh people. Such was the contribution and prosperity brought to India that Aditya helped in earning respect for the “Made in India” quality stamp. Besides giving name to one of the largest industrial empires in India, Aditya Birla served as the director of Reserve Bank of India, Air India, and The India Fund. He had been a member of the Economic and Trade Mission to Japan led by late L.K. Jha in 1985. Further, he even served as a member of the Trade Mission led by the Indian Finance Minister in 1992. He was appointed as a director on the boards of Industrial Credit and Industrial Corporation, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd., and Bajaj Auto amongst other organizations.
Aditya Vikram Birla was married to Rajshree. The couple had two kids, daughter Vasavadatta (married to Kushagra Nayan Bajaj), and son Kumar Mangalam (current head of the Aditya Birla Group).
Aditya Birla was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, thereby transferring the responsibilities of the group to wife and son. He was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, United States for treatment and died after four months of struggle on October 1, 1995, at the age of 51, leaving the entire Birla Empire under the charge of his young son Kumar Mangalam.
Honors & Awards
Outstanding Young Person Award by Bombay Metropolitan Jaycees, 1978
Outstanding Citizen Award by North Bombay Jaycees, 1984
Man of the Year Award by Amravathi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, 1985
Giant International’s Award in the filed of Business & Industry, 1986
Business Leadership Award by Madras Management Association, 1990
Businessman of the Year Award by Business India, 1990
Management Man of the Year Award by Bombay Management Association, 1992
Rashtra Bhushan Award by FIE Foundation, 1992
Platinum Jubilee Rotary Award for contribution to industry by Rotary Club of Calcutta, 1994
Vocational Excellence Award by Rotary International, January 1995
Lifetime Achievement Award by All India Association of Industries, January 1996
Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Phenomenal Growth of the Indian Cement Industry by All India Management Association, September 1996
Melvin Jones Fellow Award for Dedicated Humanitarian Services by Lions Club International Foundation
Paul Harris Fellow Award by Rotary Foundation of Rotary International
1943: Born in Kolkata, West Bengal
1965: Completed chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and returned to India
1965: Started Eastern Spinning Mills in Kolkata
1969: Set up Indo-Thai Synthetics Company Ltd. in Thailand
1973: Established P.T. Elegant Textiles in Indonesia
1974: Incorporated Thai Rayon in Thailand
1975: Launched The Indo Phil Group of companies in Philippines
1977: Set up the world’s largest single-location palm oil refinery, Pan Century Edible Oils in Malaysia
1978: Established Thai Carbon Black in Thailand
1982: P.T. Indo Bharat Rayon launched in Indonesia
1985: Conferred upon the Man of the Year Award by Amravathi Chamber of Commerce & Industry
1990: Awarded Businessman of the Year Award by Business India
1995: Died on October 1 from prostate cancer in Baltimore, USA, aged 51
1996: Bestowed with Lifetime Achievement Award by All India Association of Industries