Posted On Thursday, June 30, 2011
Good feedback from the proud employers of my students is what makes me very happy these days, says SK Birla...
I started my professional career way back in 1951. I had just completed my intermediate and the seniors in my family decided that it was time I joined business. I started my training at Keshoram Cotton Mills where I worked on the shop floor and attained a knowledge of textiles.
Later I became a part of Birla Jute Mills and also engaged in coal mining. I recall spending long hours, some 400 ft underground in the mines. After picking up the tricks of the trade, I started my own venture in 1962 - Universal Electric at Joka, a JV with Mitsubishi Electric.
I started a palm oil business in Malaysia. As far as downstream oil processing was concerned, it became the number one in the world. But it also involved a lot of speculation and not being comfortable with the idea, I moved out of it after a 15-year stint.
For a short while I had a tie-up with UK-based Chloride Batteries. However, after five years I broke my connection with the company. From 1983, I got busy running Mysore Cements, and expanding it.
India was going through a difficult phase in early 90s, struck by economic slowdown and facing bankruptcy. Incidentally, it was also when I had my most satisfying experience.
As the president of FICCI, I was called upon to prepare policy papers. Of the 12-15 papers I formulated, some eight to nine were accepted. It gives me great satisfaction to think that I contributed to my country’s welfare.
Once I turned 75, I decided not to be involved in the day to day business. Today, all my energy is focused on social work, mainly education - Calcutta Business School (CBS). The trustees of Shikshayatan Foundation (formerly Marwari Balika Vidyalaya Society), founded in 1920, which is instrumental in establishing, running and administrating two schools and a college in the city also promoted CBS, which is an AICTE approved autonomous institution.
I am grateful to Dr Subir Chowdhury, former IIMC director, who was very generous with his ideas and guidance.
Today CBS boasts of having one of the finest infrastructures in the country with Wi-Fi system. I picked up various ideas from my granddaughter’s college in London and my son-in-law’s institute in the US and tried to incorporate them in CBS.
CBS is a Rs 75 crore project. I tried to keep the syllabus as eclectic as I could so that students passing out were industry ready. It being a residential institution, students get to interact round the clock with the top class permanent faculty and also with visiting foreign experts. And all this without burning a big hole in their pockets.
Another high point for me is whenever I get good feedback from the employers of my students. It’s been a wonderful journey so far and I am thankful to all those who have always stood by me.
Birla is director, Birla Group (Birla Brothers Pvt Ltd) and president, Calcutta Business School
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