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Beta Group is a diversified transnational business group with $2 billion turnover. The group’s vertical subsidiaries include packaged processed foods manufacturing, marketing and distribution. The Group also claims interests in entertainment, logistics and business consulting.
Rajmohan Pillai formed the Beta Group as a conglomerate of nine companies in memory of his eldest brother, Kerala businessman Rajan Pillai, former chairman of Britannia Industries, whose death in 1995 closed what The Economic Times referred to as one of India's most dramatic corporate sagas.
Today, while still essentially a cashew products company, the Beta Group has diversified into fruit drinks, almonds, dates and pistachios. The group owns the dry fruit and nut brands Nut King and Ole.
Pillai's previous declared intentions for the group have included:
- waging a "cashew-nut war", matching the price of potato chips marketed by multinational companies in India (2000)
- entering the pharmaceutical and hospitality sectors (2006)
- purchasing the Barista Coffee chain (2006) (it was purchased instead by Lavazza)
- diversification including a $200 million desalination plant in Tamil Nadu (2006)
- opening an aviation academy in Malaysia (2007)
He was instrumental in establishing the KJP Research Foundation, named in honor of his late father, K. J. Pillai. The Foundation conducts research and development in the fields of cashew and other horticultural crops. He also established the Rajan Pillai Foundation in memory of his brother, to promote excellence in arts, sports, social sciences, and medicine, serving the cause of humanity. The Rajan Pillai Foundation institutes and presents awards to accomplished individuals in international relations, social welfare services and industry development.
Pillai, as Managing Director of Pace International Ltd, was one of four men convicted of fraud over a letter of credit in 2008. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and fined Rs 200,000, but appealed the conviction and the sentences have been suspended until the appeal is resolved.
Thesis and publications
In 2006 he was awarded a doctorate in business management by the New Age International University of Seborga, Italy, (a diploma mill unlicensed by any Italian or European authority which is an offshoot of the Institute of Education, Research & Development, Kolkata) for a thesis that chronicled the history of the global cashew industry.
His other published works are:
- A Wasted Death – a book on the rise and fall of Rajan Pillai, co-authored with K. Govindan Kutty (Penguin Books, 2001, ISBN 978-0-14-100601-7; subsequently translated and published in five Indian languages).
- K. Janardhanan Pillaiyude Jeevitham Daivathinte Nadakom – a Malayalam book about the life of Pillai's father. Co-authored with V. S. Nair (Current Books, 2002).
- The World Cashew Industry – a book detailing all aspects of the production, processing and trading of cashews. Co-authored with Mrs. P. Santha, a relative and former principal scientist with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (Rajan Pillai Foundation, Kollam, 2008). The book incorporates several chapters of Pillai's thesis.
- "Dr.J.Rajmohan Piilai". autobiographical blog post. 16 September 2006. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012.
- "Pillai's brother eyes global JV for biscuits pie". The Economic Times. 12 February 2007. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
- "Cashew King". Business Today. 9 October 2005. Archived from the original on 10 December 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- Hamid, Hamisah (10 March 2009). "Beta Brands looks forward to cracking RM1b mark". New Straits Times. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
- About us: Beta Groups Background at the Wayback Machine (archived 14 May 2008), betaempire.com
- "Barista to be sold again, for Rs 150-200 cr". The Times of India. 10 October 2006. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- "Beta groups records Rs.20 bn turnover". Silicon India. 19 May 2003. Archived from the original on 15 September 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
- "Doctorate for Beta Group chief". Business Line. The Hindu. 3 April 2006. Archived from the original on 10 December 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
- "Beta Empire group launches 'Date King'". Business Line. The Hindu. 12 November 2002. Archived from the original on 10 December 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- "Nut King J R Pillai to take on the might of MNC's". The Rediff Business Special. 12 June 2000. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
- Italy's Lavazza to buy Barista, Rediff India Abroad, 9 March 2007. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- "Netherlands co to invest Rs 250 cr in Nut King". The Economic Times of India. 11 October 2006. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
- "Netherlands-based Indian group to open aviation academy in Malaysia". Business Times. 14 May 2007. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
- "Kerala can show the way in plurality, says Tharoor". The Hindu. 22 December 2006. Retrieved 15 December 2008.
- The case was determined on 10 December 2008 by a special court set up by the CBI in Kochi, India. The accused were charged with conspiracy to defraud the Kollam Branch of the state bank of Travancore of Rs 62 million using letters of credit. All four were sentenced to two years' imprisonment and fined Rs 200,000 each, and Pace International Ltd (of which Pillai was the Managing Director) was fined Rs 100,000. Sources: Court report of preliminary hearing in 2001. 3 including former bank official get jail, 18 December 2008, IndiaInfo.com. Reports in Malayala Manorama, 11 Dec 2008; Mathrubhumi, 11 Dec 2008.
- See Criminal appeal case 2951 of 2008, High Court of Kerala case status. Status: Pending. Case updated 4 December 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
- "CM releases book on Rajan Pillai". The Hindu. 21 August 2001. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
- "Comprehensive book on cashew industry released". The Hindustan Times. 21 January 2008. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2008.
- Nair, N.J. (22 January 2008). "The tale of cashew trade over the years". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 August 2011.