OBITUARIES: Aditya Birla

Aditya Birla was head of an 80-billion-rupee (pounds 1.65bn) industrial and business empire spread across India and south-east Asia.

Although born into a formidable business family, Birla branched out and established an industrial empire of his own which manufactured textiles, chemicals, engineering goods, fertilisers and palm oil.

He was one of the first Indian businessmen to start joint industrial ventures in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, where he was part owner of the world's largest palm-oil refinery. In south-east Asia alone, Birla's expanding companies are pledged to investing almost pounds 1bn over the next three years.

Birla believed the world was his marketplace, but his manufacturing base was India. "We are not afraid of global competition," he said at a time when Indian goods were being trashed overseas. "Let it be afraid of us." Last year alone, his business turnover was a shade under pounds 1bn, almost half of it from overseas concerns.

Birla was highly respected by the Indian government. He was a member of the Board of Trade and his business views and investment suggestions were constantly solicited by commerce. He believed that big business can prosper only when internationally competitive, an opinion he repeatedly voiced to a protectionist Indian government, supportive of monopolies and unrealistic import tariffs.

Birla was born in New Delhi in 1944, the favourite grandson of Ghanshyam Das Birla, founder of the vast Birla industrial empire. He graduated in science from St Xavier's College, in Calcutta, and took a chemical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

On returning home in 1965, he turned down his grandfather's offer of taking over Hindalco, an aluminium plant, and opted instead to enter the rayon and textile business, then virtually on its last legs, by establishing the Eastern Spinning Mills in Calcutta. Fifteen months later, after his maiden venture registered handsome profits, he was put in charge of Hindustan Gas and successfully managed its expansion.

Birla was also given control of Indo-Gulf Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd, which faced a liquidity and managerial crisis. Within a short span it became a blue-chip company with a capital outlay today of over pounds 200m.

A series of industrial and business successes followed and by the late Seventies Birla had acquired the reputation of a wizard, capable of turning ailing companies around through a mixture of daring and the chutzpah to pump money into projects others were wary about.

In 1983, after his grandfather's death, Birla inherited the lion's share of this empire and over the next 12 years became one of India's foremost businessmen. Beside its size, Birla's empire is also a world leader today in manufacturing several products - Hindalco is amongst the world's largest low-cost producers of aluminium and Grasim the largest producer of viscose staple fibre.

In 1990 Birla was declared Business Man of the Year and soon after became a director of India's Central Bank and Air India, besides advising the government on its four-year-old market reform policies.

A competent badminton player, Birla was also a moderately successful artist, who held an exhibition of his oil paintings in Bombay in 1990.

Kuldip Singh

Aditya Vikram Birla, businessman, industrialist: born New Delhi 14 November 1944; married (one son, one daughter); died Baltimore 1 October 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific