Rajashree’s dreams for the nation are of inclusive development where the dignity of life reigns supreme and poverty becomes a thing of the past.
In our series on Indian millionaire-philanthropists who have been significant contributors in bringing succour to the less privileged, we take a look at Rajashree Birla and her focused efforts in this direction.
She was born to Parvati Devi Fomra and RadhakishenFomra in 1948, in Bikaner and brought up in Madurai. Belonging to a traditional middle-class Marwari, Rajashree was a mere 10 years of age when she was engaged to Aditya Vikram Birla who was 14, they were married in 1965 when she was 17. With full encouragement from her husband and in-laws, she went on to complete her graduation from the University of Calcutta. While Aditya Birla was busy setting up and expanding the Birla Group, Rajashree engaged herself with caring for and nurturing her family.
Its initiatives in education, healthcare, sustainable livelihood, etc make a constructive difference to approximately seven million people.
By her own admission, Rajashree Birla has always felt deeply touched by the plight of the underprivileged and she desired to open an orphanage to care for destitute children. That was the genesis of the Aditya Birla Centre for the Welfare of Children in Mumbai, where children are trained through Industrial Training Institutes in diverse vocations to make them independent. In her own words published on adityabirla.com, Rajashree states, “We have been deeply influenced by my grandfather-in-law, Ghanshyam Das Birla. He, in turn, was deeply influenced by Gandhi’s values of truth, non-violence, and justice. These values were passed on from generation to generation. It is a legacy, which we have closely guarded. These values and the trusteeship concept, which says that part of the wealth, must be used for the welfare of the society, and the philosophy of giving and caring has become part of our DNA. G.D Birla put in a vast amount of his wealth in building magnificent temples, excellent schools, and Dharamshalas all over the country, and financing the freedom struggle. This philosophy of caring and giving is thus embedded in the Birla family. So long before Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) became a buzz word in the corporate lexicon, it had long been embedded into our Group’s value systems”.
If was only after the unfortunate and untimely demise of her husband in 1995, that Rajashree Birla, took on positions and responsibilities in the Aditya Birla Group. She is the Chairperson of the Aditya Birla Center for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, which oversees the corporate social responsibility programs and projects of the Aditya Birla Group across thirty companies. Its influence spans 3,000 villages spread across India, Egypt, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia as well as parts of America. Its initiatives in education, healthcare, sustainable livelihood, infrastructure and social reform, make a constructive difference to approximately seven million people and their communities. Rajashree’s sustained endeavour has been to foster the social and economic advancement of the underprivileged sections of the society and elevate them to a more competitive footing. Building homes for the homeless in India is another initiative she spearheaded in her capacity as the Chairperson of Habitat for Humanity India.
She was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2011 by the Government of India for her exemplary contribution in the area of social work.
She has taken on multiple responsibilities in her pursuit of making a positive difference to the lives she touches. She is a Director on the Board of all the major Aditya Birla Group of Companies. She is also the Director of the Aditya Group’s International Companies in Thailand, Egypt, Indonesia and Philippines. Rajashree Birla is the Chairperson of the FICCI – Aditya Birla CSR Centre for Excellence and also the Chairperson of FICCI first ever-expert committee on CSR constituted. She is also on the Board of Asia Pacific Committee as well as Habitat’s Global Committee and a member of the advisory board of The Research Society for the Care, Treatment, and Training of Children in Need of Special Care, Mumbai, and of BAIF Development Research Foundation, Pune. Rajashree is also actively involved with the NGO Population First, which focuses on creating awareness against female feticide. In collaboration with the Indian Government’s health department across the country, the municipal corporation of Greater Mumbai and Rotary International, the Aditya Birla Group has been supporting the polio eradication drive. Recognition for her sustained efforts has continued to pour in for Rajashree. She was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2011 by the Government of India for her exemplary contribution in the area of social work.
Her vision is to aid in raising the Human Development Index of India, which continues to need major boosting despite Indians having made a remarkable mark on the intellectual map of the world. Known to be a deeply spiritual individual, Rajashree believes that compassion is the only currency that counts. Albeit belonging to such an illustrious family, Rajashree Birla is recognised for her simple tenacity and down to earth nature. Her dreams for the nation are of inclusive development where the dignity of life reigns supreme and poverty becomes a thing of the past. She has been steadfast in traversing the route to attain the same and her journey has been one to inspire many.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.