This article has multiple issues. Please help talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)( or discuss these issues on the Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Current region||Operating out of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, India|
|Place of origin||Pilani, Shekhawati, Marwar, Rajasthan, India|
|Members||1.Shiv Narain Birla
2.Baldeo Das Birla
3.Jugal Kishore Birla
Rameshwar Das Birla
Ghanshyam Das Birla
Braj Mohan Birla
Madhav Prasad Birla
Lakshmi Niwas Birla
Krishna Kumar Birla
Basant Kumar Birla
Ganga Prasad Birla
5.Ashok Vardhan Birla
Sudarshan Kumar Birla
Aditya Vikram Birla
Chandra Kant Birla
6.Kumar Mangalam Birla
The Birla family belong to the Maheshwari subcaste of the Vaishya (trader) caste, and are Marwari since they hail from the Marwad region of present-day Rajasthan. Specifically, the family originates from the town of Pilani in the Shekhawati region lying between Marwad.
In Pilani during the early 19th century lived Seth Shobharam, grandson of Seth Bhudharmal, a local trademan of modest means. It was his son, Seth Shiv Narain (1840-1909), who first ventured outside Pilani. At this time, Ahmedabad was the railhead which serviced trade from a large region of northwest India. Goods (mainly cotton) would be brought from the hinterland to the city and sent from there by train to Bombay for export to England and other countries. Several cotton ginning units were also set up in Ahmedabad, to clean the cotton before shipment to England. Shiv Narain Birla was one of the early Indian traders to participate in this cotton trade. Later, Britain vigorously fostered the trade of opium with China and developed the cultivation of poppy in India. The Ratlam-Mandsaur region (not far from Ahemdabad) became prime poppy cropland due to suitable soil and climate. Shiv Narain Birla and his adopted son, Baldeo Das Birla, made an enormous fortune by trading opium with China, and this formed the basis of the family's fortune. With growing wealth and increasing confidence, Shiv Narain Birla moved up the value chain and began chartering cargo ships in partnership with other Marwadi tradesmen to trade opium with China, thus by-passing British middlemen. To facilitate this, he moved to Bombay in 1863.
Shiv Narain Birla had one overweening sorrow in his life: he had no children. By the early 1880s, Shiv Narain had passed on the baton of his business interests to his adopted son, Baldeo Das Birla, established Shivnarayan Baldevdas, a trading house based in Bombay. His son, Baldeo Das Birla moved to Calcutta set up Baldevdas Jugalkishor in 1887. Baldeo Das was succeeded by four sons - Jugal Kishore, Rameshwar Das, Ghanshyam Das and Braj Mohan.
Baldeo Das was awarded the Raibahadur title in 1917. In 1920 he retired from business and started living in Banares pursuing religious studies. In 1925 he was awarded the title of "Raja" by the government of Bihar and Orissa. He was awarded D. Litt. by Beneras Hindu University.
Ghanshyam Das Birla laid the foundation of his industrial empire by establishing GM Birla Company, trading in jute, in 1911. The First World War began in 1914 greatly increasing the demand for jute sacks. It is estimated that during the war, the Birla worth rose from Rs 20 lakh to 80 Lakh. In 1919, he became among the first group of Indian entrepreneurs to become owner of a Jute mill named Birla Jute. In the next few years he acquired several cotton mills. He later started several sugar mills. The publication Hindustan Times was co-founded by GD Birla in 1924 and fully acquired by him in 1933. Hindustan Motors was started in 1942. After India's independence in 1947 he started Grasim (Gwalior Rayon Silk Manufacturing, 1948) and Hindalco (Hindustan Aluminium Company 1958) among others.
Baldeo Das, as well his sons were among the key supporters of the swaraj movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, in addition to being dedicated Hindu activists. They were active supporters of the Banaras Hindu University founded by Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya and were also financial supporters of activities initiated by Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was requested to inaugurate the landmark Laxminarayan Temple in Delhi, and as asked by Gandhi, all Hindus, including harijans were welcomed.
In the few decades before India's independence, Indian merchants, including the Birlas, made successful attempts to enter and acquire industries in India which were once dominated by Scots from Britain. This became a part of Mahatma Gandhi's Swadeshi movement.
Birlas remained close to some of the leaders of India, like Sardar Patel after India's independence. As leading industrialists, they were often accused by the leftists of exploiting their workers and aspiring to be among the richest in the world. Still when E. M. S. Namboodiripad became the chief minister of Kerala (1957-59), as a result of the first elected Marxist government anywhere, Birlas were invited to establish a pulp factory there.
In recent past, the Birlas, as well as several other Indian industrialists have expanded overseas. 
|Family of Birla family|
Birla philanthropy began in the 1880s, when the Birla family donated over Rs.1 lakh for setting up goshalas (shelters for the protection of cows) in Kolkata. By early 1900, the Birla family began to support education, influenced by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. They supported educational charities in Kolkata and in Mumbai teaming up with Jamnalal Bajaj. In 1918, the family established the first high school in Pilani which evolved into BITS Pilani, a prestigious institution which now has branches in Hyderabad, Goa and Dubai. They also opened a Sanskrit library in Benares and a library in Kolkata. It is well known for the financial support of Indian's freedom struggle and for building temples (see Birla Temple) in several major Indian cities.
The institutions founded by the Birlas include:
In a letter, Ghanshaym Das offered this advice to Aditya (his grandson) when he was studying at MIT:
GD Birla instructed his son Basant Kumar to 'never utilize wealth only for fun and frolic,' to 'spend the bare minimum on yourself,' and to deride 'worldly pleasures.'
This advice symbolised the ethic of the rising Marwari community, with restraint and austerity its defining attributes.
Although the Birlas are perceived as a single entity, the different branches of the family are now financially independent. However they have continued to maintain family relationships that go back to the times when "Birla Brothers" were an actual entity and Raja Baldevdas was still alive.
Both of GD Birla's wives died early because of tuberculosis (He remarried after the death of his first wife), a common affliction at that time. The families of his brothers Brij Mohan and Rameshwar Das Birla helped in raising his children. When Yash Birla's parents died in a plane crash, Priyamvada Birla, ("Badi Ma") helped take care of him.
It is reported that Kumar Mangalam Birla had dipped into his own resources to help his beleaguered relative Yash with his financial issues with creditors, in order to preserve the family name.
For many decades the extreme wealth in India was associated with the Tatas and Birlas. The words Tata-Birla were often used together. They were distantly followed by Dalmias (Dalmia-Sahu Jain group) for some time, however Tatas and Birlas have been able to sustain themselves as among the most prominent industrialists in India (for 1939-1997 data see) while others have declined.
A plan for development of India was developed by a group of industrialists in 1944, which was termed the Tata-Birla plan or the Bombay plan, which is said to have served as a blueprint for India's first five-year plan.