K. K. Birla

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Birla on a 2009 stamp of India

Krishna Kumar Birla (12 October 1918 – 30 August 2008) was an Indian industrialist of the Birla family.


Born at Pilani in the northwestern Indian state Rajasthan on 12 October 1918, Krishna Kumar Birla was the second son of Ghanshyam Das Birla. He had one older brother, Shrinivas Birla, who was the son of Ghanshyam das Birla by his deceased first wife, Durga Devi Birla. Krishna Kumar was the elder of the two sons born to Ghanshyam Das Birla's second wife, Mahadevi Birla, the other son being Basant Kumar Birla, father of Aditya Vikram Birla. Krishna Kumar also had three sisters, all of whom were born to Mahadevi Birla.

Incidentally, Krishna Kumar's birth coinciding with an epochal contemporary event: the signing of the armistice that signalled the end of the First World War. However, the family was more delighted with the fact that the day was that of the Hindu festival of Gopashtami, which is associated with Krishna, and therefore he was given the name of that much beloved Hindu God. During his younger years, his family, which followed the Hindu calendar more diligently in those days, celebrated his birthday every year on Gopashtami. The Hindu calendar is a lunar calendar which does not coincide with the Gregorian calendar from year to year, and therefore his birthday was celebrated on a different Gregorian date every year. It was only for official purposes, such as government documents, that the date of 12 October was initially used, but in later years, it inevitably became the date on which his business associates and other associates in public life wished him, and therefore it came to be marked with a prvate celebration also.

Krishna Kumar's father, Ghanshyam Das Birla, was the founder of the Birla Group and he was one of India's richest and most celebrated businessmen. He was also a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi and a major financier of Gandhi's Congress Party in the years preceding and immediately following the Independence of India in 1947.[1] Krishna Kumar joined Congress Party in 1984 as a life member. He was elected as a Rajya Sabha member in the same year, under the leadership of Indira Gandhi. He was a Member of Parliament for three terms from 1984 till 2002, served on several committees of Parliament. He was appointed twice, in 1980 and 2004, as a member of the National Integration Council chaired by the prime minister.[2]

Birla was one of the industrialists who supported economic reforms in India in 1991.[3]

Birla was a Hindi Prabhakar (Honours in Hindi) and in 1997 was conferred the degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) by Pondicherry University. In 1991, Birla established the K.K. Birla Foundation to promote Hindi literature.

He was the chairman of one of the Hindustan Times. He was on the central board of the State Bank of India and ICICI. He headed Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI), Indian Sugar Mills Association and many Sports Federations. Birla was the group chairman of the Zuari-Chambal group of companies. He was also the Chairman of Zuari-Chambal-Paradeep.

He liked playing bridge. He was president of the Bridge Federation of India for a number of years and also headed the Indian Lawn Tennis Association.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Krisha Kumar married Manorama Devi, a lady of his own caste and similar background, in a match that was arranged by their parents in the usual Indian manner. The couple had never met each other before their wedding day, and the marriage, which lasted until their death 67 years later, was one of great felicity and harmony. Indeed, the death of Manorama Devi on 29 July 2008 after a brief illness was such a great shock to Krishna Kumar that he took to his bed forthwith and died just one month later, on 30 August 2008. He was a few weeks short of his 90th birthday and died at his residence, Birla Park in Kolkata, where he had lived almost his entire life. The couple, who had never had sons, were survived by all three of their daughters, namely Nandini Nopany, Jyoti Poddar and Shobhana Bhartia, and by several grandchildren[5] He died on 30 August 2008, at his home in Calcutta. He was nearly 90. The cause was age-related ailments and pneumonia. He was grief-stricken by the death on 29 July of his wife of 67 years, Manorama Devi.[6][7]


  • his net worth was estimated at 11,000 crore in 2008
  • After the demise of Birla, his son-in-law Saroj Kumar Poddar took over as the chairman of Zuari-Chambal-Paradeep fertilizer combines.
  • The textiles and sugar business is now headed by Nandini Nopany, eldest daughter of Birla and Chandra Shekhar Nopany, grandson of Birla.
  • The Media group, Hindustan Times Media, is now chaired by his daughter Shobhana Bhartia, Member of Parliament.
  • Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman-Aditya Birla Group and grand nephew of Birla, took over as the Chancellor of BITS Pilani.
  • K. K. Birla Lane in New Delhi is named for him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "K K birla a leader of Indian Business". New York Times. 3 September 2008.
  2. ^ "Krishna Kumar Birla". Penguin Books India. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  3. ^ K.K. Birla was among the few who supported reforms in 1991: PM; The Hindu, 13 December 2007
  4. ^ "Family came first". Telegraph India. 31 August 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  5. ^ "K K Birla Indian Leader". NY Times. 2 September 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  6. ^ Noted industrialist K K Birla dies at 90; Zee News, 31 August 2008
  7. ^ Fact file: Dr KK Birla; Hindustan Times, 30 August 2008

Hindu College, University of Delhi