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KK babu: Doyen of Indian industry

Last updated on: August 30, 2008 16:16 IST

Krishna Kumar Birla, popularly known as K K Babu, was a builder of modern institutions, ranging from industry to education, one of the famous symbols of which is the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani Rajasthan, his birthplace.

Born on November 11, 1918, Birla called it a historic day (his birthday) in his autobiography, Brushes With History, as agreement of armistice for World War I was signed on that day.

K K Birla inherited a legacy in which the creation of wealth, philanthropy and political leadership was all regarded as part of nation building.

Spiritual strength and moral values were regarded part of KK Birla's personal credo. He built a Radha-Krishna Temple (popularly known as Birla Temple) here and many other institutions countrywide that enriched the fabric of Indian society.

He was responsible for expanding the famous Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, with extension of its campuses in Dubai, Goa and Hyderabad.

He was the chairperson of the Hindustan Times Group and had been a member of the Rajya Sabha for a long time.

He is survived by three daughters -- Nandini Nupani, Jyoti Potddar and Shobhana Bhartia.

His wife Manorama Devi Birla died in Kolkata on July 29.

Birla's father Ghanshyam Das Birla, who passed away in  1983, was a supporter and benefactor of the Congress in the pre-independence era and was close to Mahatma Gandhi.

Ghanshyam was one of the industrialists who openly helped the nationalist cause.

K K Birla, who was chairman of several companies dealing in diverse fields such as textiles, sugar, engineering,  shipping, fertilisers and information technology, was a member of the Rajya Sabha for three consecutive terms spanning 18  years from 1984 to 2002.

He served several committees of Parliament and had been on the central board of the State Bank of India and ICICI.

Chancellor of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science at Pilani, he was the Group Chairman of the Zuari-Chambal group of companies with a turnover of Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion).

He was the chairman of the Zuari-Chambal-Paradeep, India's largest fertiliser combine in the private sector. The group companies numbered more than 40. 

Birla, who studied at the Calcutta University, Delhi University and Punjab University, married Manorama Devi on July 3, 1941.

An avid reader and sports enthusiast, he was president of  the All India Lawn Tennis Association between 1980-85, Bridge Federation of India and the Rajasthan Club of Kolkata.

He authored several books, including Indira Gandhi - Reminiscences, Partner in Progress and Contributions of Krishna Kumar Birla to debates in the Rajya Sabha, 1984-2002.

He established the K K Birla Foundation, which has instituted annual awards for excellence in Indian literature, scientific research, Indian philosophy, art and culture and sports.

He also set up the K K Birla Academy in Delhi to undertake research on scientific, cultural and historical subjects.

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