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Shri Ghanshyam Das "G.D." Birla (April 10, 1894 – June 11, 1983) was an Indianmarker businessman and member of the influential Birla Family.


Birla's grandfather Shiv Narayana Birla wanted to diversify from the traditional marwari business of lending money against pawned items. He left Pilanimarker, his hometown in Rajasthanmarker with a modest capital to Bombaymarker to establish a business in cotton dealership. The venture was successful and he came back to Pilanimarker to build a huge mansion (or Haveli), which still stands by the name Birla Haveli.


Birla inherited the family business and moved to further diversify them into other areas. Of these, at least three contemporary family business groups existing in India today can trace their ancestry to Ghanshyam. Of these businesses, he wanted to turn the pawned items business into manufacturing. So he left for Calcuttamarker in Bengalmarker, the world's largest jute producing region. There he established a jute firm, much to the consternation of established European merchants, whom the biased policies of the Britishmarker government favoured. He had to scale a number of obstacles as the British and Scottishmarker merchants tried to shut his business by unethical and monopolistic methods, but he was able to persevere. When World War I resulted in supply problems throughout the British Empire, Birla's business sky-rocketed.

Envisioning infrastructural development in his hometown, Birla founded the Birla Engineering Collegemarker in Pilanimarker among other educational institutions. The college has evolved over the years to develop into one of India's best engineering schools, BITS Pilanimarker. Today, Pilani also houses a wing of Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI), a famous residential, public school christened after Birla's family and a number of polytechnic colleges. The town of Pilanimarker and the local population enjoy a highly symbiotic relationship with these institutions, thereby stepping towards realizing G.D.'s dream. Moreover, G.D.Birla Memorial School, Ranikhet, a premier residential school has also been eshtablished in his honor by Syt. B.K. Birla and is today one of the best residential schools in the nation.

In 1926, he was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly of British India.

In 1957, he was awarded Indiamarker's second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India.

Birla was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, whom he met for the first time in 1916, and Gandhi was at Birla's home in New Delhimarker when he was assassinated in 1948, having lived there for the last four months of his life.

There is a memorial to Ghanshyam Birla in Golders Green Crematoriummarker, Hoop Lane, London. It comprises a large statue overlooking the gardens with an inscription.

Further reading

  • Birla, Ghanshyam Das, In the Shadow of the Mahatma: a personal memoir (Calcutta, 1953)
  • Jajni, R. N., G. D. Birla (New Delhi, 1985)
  • Ross, A., The Emissary: G. D. Birla, Gandhi and Independence (1986)

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