Birla Brothers Private Ltd.

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Birla Brothers Private Ltd.


second largest industrial-financial group of the national bourgeoisie of India (after the Tata group). It includes members of the Birla family and is headed by G. Birla, Marwari by nationality and a major Indian financial magnate.

The Birla group had its beginning in the mid-19th century. During the first half of the 20th century, while it was primarily engaged in credit and financial operations, it penetrated into the sphere of industry. Starting with the production of and trade in jute and cotton cloth, Birla absorbed companies in other industries and turned into a powerful concern, with interests concentrated in light industry. The growth of the group’s power was particularly marked after India achieved independence (1947). Between 1948 and 1958, the assets of Birla-controlled companies grew by a factor of 15. The beginning of the group’s extensive penetration of heavy industry also dates back to this period. During the mid-1960’s, Birla accounted for the output in India of about 100 percent of the alloys of nonferrous metals, acetate fiber, linoleum, and acetic anhydride; about 90 percent of staple fiber; more than 50 percent of automobiles, tire cord, paper, different kinds of boilers, and household refrigerators; and about 40 percent of aluminum. Birla is one of the leading producers of textile equipment. It is also a large landowner, exploiting about 15,000 hectares of tea plantations, as well as other plantations; and it controls a number of banks and financial and insurance companies. The group’s companies are prominent in India’s foreign trade, first and foremost, in exports; they are among the largest exporters of jute articles, tea, and other traditional commodities. The monopolistic character of Birla is manifest in its export of capital, which has been growing since the late 1950’s and is directed essentially to the countries of Asia and Africa. Birla has large enterprises in Nepal, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia. A new tendency is the construction of enterprises in industrially developed countries—Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland.

Throughout its development, the consolidation of Birla’s positions has been furthered by its connections with foreign capital, which was essentially British until the 1960’s and later also included American and French capital. Birla makes use of technical aid, loans, and credit from foreign monopolies; with their participation, it establishes joint companies while maintaining its independent position because of its financial power and the diversity of its spheres of activity. The economic consolidation of Birla in India is also aided by its ties, which have been developing since the 1960’s, with other monopolistic associations of the Indian bourgeoisie—in particular, the Goenka group.

Birla exerts much influence on the country’s economic and political life. It finances the activities of political parties and groups, controls one of the largest newspaper trusts of India, which publishes more than ten periodicals, including the newspaper Hindustan Times and the journal Eastern Economist, and participates in a large wire service. Members of the Birla family belong to consultative committees and councils in various branches of industry. The group is closely linked to several leaders of the National Congress Party.

Organizationally, the group consists of companies unconnected to each other but joined by a single system of financial control. The largest companies are Birla Jute Manufacturing Company, Textile Machine Corporation, Hindustan Motors, and Birla Cotton and Weaving Mills Ltd. In 1968 the group included more than 200 companies in India, with total assets of 5 billion rupees. During the 1960’s, the number of workers in the group’s enterprises exceeded 150,000.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.