Nonagenarian industrialist and Birla group patriarch Basant Kumar Birla passed away on Wednesday. He was 98. Birla, the youngest son of philanthropist Ghanshyam Das Birla, was born on 12 January, 1921. By fifteen years of age, he was already actively associated with a large number of companies and eventually became the chairman of Kesoram Industries. He also established the Indo-Ethiopian Textiles Share Company, which was the first major joint venture by any Indian industrialist. In response, the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, awarded him the medal of the Order of Menelik II, the highest Ethiopian award.
In April 1941, he married Sarla, the daughter of activist and writer Brijlal Biyani, after having been introduced to each other by Jamnalal Bajaj and Mahatma Gandhi. They had a son, Aditya Vikram Birla, and two daughters, Jayashree Mohta and Manjushree Khaitan.
He was the chairman of the Krishnarpan Charity Trust, which runs an engineering college named BK Birla Institute of Engineering & Technology in Pilani, Rajasthan, the Swargashram Trust, which administers a Sanskrit school in Rishikesh. He also established Birla Public School in Qatar and the Birla College of Arts, Science & Commerce in Kalyan near Mumbai. He is the author of several books, including an autobiography entitled Svantah Sukhaya.