Dr. Pragnya Ram
Group Executive President
Corporate Communications
Aditya Birla Management Corporation Limited
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Corporate Dossier
The Economic Times
27 May 2005

We caught up with the 84-year-old patriarch Basant Kumar Birla and his wife Sarala Birla and asked them to speak about their grandson. The pride was evident in every word they spoke about him. In fact, they went on to admit that there's no better person to take on the mantle of the most pioneering businessman India ever had, Ghanshyam Das Birla, than Kumar Mangalam Birla. Here's an excerpt from what they had to say:

Mr. Basant Kumar Birla and Mrs. Sarala Birla

"After the death of Aditya Vikram Birla, I had told Kumar Mangalam that if you ever need any help or advice, please come to me. It was almost like an afterthought that I added, if I need any I'll come to you. Since then, it has always been me who has asked for his help and advice. We only exchange views and his answers are always short and to the point. He always knew what's good and what's bad, what we call vivek. I have worked under GD Birla, my son AV Birla has worked under me and I have seen Kumar Mangalam. Between my father, and me the way of working was almost the same. Aditya too adopted the same style of working. But he changed everything.

Soon after he took over he introduced a retirement policy, a very scientific policy and he had planned well in advance. Around 350 very senior people had to leave. In our family, the tradition was to continue with the people, but he brought in new blood. He appointed people with high calibre and high pay.

My employees would come to me and point out the pay disparity. I would tell them that they are a different group — more professional, more profits and more successful. I told them that the A V Birla group has become a giant, ours is not. But in retrospect, till 1994 or 1995 we hadn't noticed anything especially exciting about his business acumen. But the change was almost overnight and within a few months, it was very obvious. But what is far more important is his sense of humility and willingness to learn. At 28 years of age, to be a Birla and yet be humble is no joke. Strangely enough he was."

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Lessons in excellence
People power
The king's gambit
Change reaction

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