Dr Charat Ram, one of India’s most respected industrialists and a Delhi veteran who nurtured the arts, culture and education, died on Tuesday after a prolonged illness that resulted in multiple organ failure, members of his family said. He was 89.
His cremation is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
The industrialist, famous for aggressively promoting professional management with a meticulous sense of detail, built up companies, including Shriram Pistons, Jay Engineering, Usha International and Shriram Industrial Enterprises Ltd. (SIEL). SIEL brought the Honda car to India under a joint venture after a four-way split in the Delhi Cloth Mills-led industrial empire founded by his father, the late Lala Shri Ram.
Dr Charat Ram, who was often referred to in the same breath as his brother Dr. Bharat Ram, is survived by his wife Sumitra, sons Deepak and Siddharth, and daughters Shobha and Gauri. The family has funded cultural centres like the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra and the Shri Ram Centre, while the Lady Shri Ram College and the Shri Ram College of Commerce are among the extended family’s gifts to the capital.
In 1973-74, Dr Charat Ram was president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), in which he was one of the pivotal figures for decades.
Despite publicised differences with his son Siddharth and management protégé N.R. Dongre, Dr Charat Ram’s reputation was one of a friendly patriarch who helped managers grow.
“I must tell you he shaped my career all the way,” Ashok Soota, chairman of MindTree Consulting and former president of Wipro, told Hindustan Times from Germany. Soota started his career with the group and left Shriram Refrigeration as its chief executive officer after 19 years in the group.
“He was a task master, quick on his feet and entrepreneurial,” Soota said. “I met him last year and his mind was sharp as nails even if he was physically frail.” Habil Khorakiwala, FICCI’s president, expressing his condolences, described Dr Charat Ram as a “beacon for businesspersons in India.”
“People who worked under him later became either leading professionals or entrepreneurs,” said K N Memani, former chairman of Ernst & Young.