Ramkrishna Dalmia (7 April 1893 – 26 September 1978) was a pioneer industrialist and founder of the Dalmia-Jain group or Dalmia Group and The Times Group. The name is variously written as Ram Krishan Dalmia and Ram Kishan Dalmia.
When Dalmia was only about 18 years of age, his father died leaving no property. After this, the entire burden of supporting his mother, grandmother, his wife and younger brother Jaidayal fell on him. His maternal uncle, Motilal Jhunjhunwala gave him a job in his bullion business which enabled him to earn just enough to support his whole family. Later he earned himself handsome amount of money by speculation in bullion.
During the time when he was staying in Dinapore, he mooted the idea of establishing a sugar factory at Bihta in Patna District. This was done under the joint management of himself and Nirmal Kumar Jain of Arrah, a well-known local Zamindar. Simultaneously he set up another sugar factory at Dehri-on-Sone, Bihar. This place became known as Dalmianagar.
His greatest contribution was in the emergence of the Indian Cement Industry. He entered this field in the year 1936 as a challenge to the monopoly of existing firms, mainly the powerful combine of Associated Cement Company, which had till then been in complete control of the industry. Facing stiff competition from them, he set up several cement factories at different places like Dalmianagar in Bihar, Karachi in Pakistan, Dalmia Dadri in Haryana, Dandot in Punjab, Dalmiapuram in Tamil Nadu and Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan.
He went on to set up several industries like Cement, Paper, Banks, Insurance Companies, Biscuits, Aviation Companies, Railways, Collieries, Publishing and Newspapers, Textiles, Chemicals, etc. with the assistance of his lieutenants, his younger brother Jaidayal Dalmia and his son-in-law, Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain.
Later, he established the Bharat Bank with branches at many places in India. He also entered in the Aviation Business and acquired disposal goods after the Second World War. He acquired interests in the Bharat Insurance Co. Ltd. and established a Fire and General Insurance Company. He later acquired controlling interests in the Punjab National Bank and also in the Times of India publications.
At the time of India’s independence, he was among the wealthiest and most powerful men in India and maintained good relations with most political leaders. At one point his name is said to have been considered for India’s finance minister
Shortly before independence, the Dalmia empire was divided between himself, Jaidayal Dalmia, and son-in-law Shanti Prasad Jain, who had once been a tutor to his daughter Rama. Later, when he was facing imprisonment and needed to repay 2.5 crores (25 million) rupees, he mortgaged Bennett, Coleman to Shanti Prasad Jain to raise monies.
Philanthropy & Extra-Curricular
A great philanthropist, he presided over a number of religious, educational and social conferences and helped thousands of people in distress. He formed the Anti-Cow Slaughter League and vowed that he would sacrifice the consumption of cereals till all cow slaughter came to an end in the country; which promise he maintained till his last day. He mooted the idea of “One-World Government” in 1948 which received wide attention. He was also author of ‘A Guide To Bliss’, ‘Fearlessness’, ‘Faith in Divine Law’. He was a man of vision and courage.
Bennett Coleman and incarceration
In 1947, Dalmia engineered the acquisition of the media giant Bennett, Coleman by transferring monies from a bank and an insurance company of which he was the Chairman. In 1955, this came to the attention of the socialist parliamentarian Feroze Gandhi who was part of the ruling Congress party headed by his estranged father-in-law Jawaharlal Nehru. In December 1955, he raised the matter in Parliament, documenting extensively the various fund transfers and intermediaries through which the acquisition had been financed. The case was investigated by the Vivian Bose Commission of Inquiry.
In the court case that followed, where he was represented by the leading British attorney Sir Dingle Mackintosh Foot, he was sentenced to two years in Tihar Jail. But for most of the jail term he managed to spend in hospital. Upon his release his son-in-law Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain to whom he had entrusted running of Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. rebuffed his efforts to resume command of the company.
Dalmia married six times. His first two wives, Narbada and Durga were village women, but his four later wives Pritam, Saraswati, Dinesh Nadini and Asha were all well-educated. He was separated or divorced from his third wife Pritam. His fourth wife Saraswati became his mainstay, with whom he lived most of his life.
Dalmia had eighteen children.
He died on the 26th of September 1978 at the age of 85 after a prolonged illness.
- Auletta. Page 55.
- Auletta, Ken: “Citizens Jain - Why India's Newspaper Industry is Thriving“. The New Yorker, Oct 8 2012, Pages 52 to 61.