‘I give my kids freedom to follow their passions’: KM BirlaUpdated: Dec 07, 2019 09:07 IST
Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla offered a rare glimpse into his personal life on a public stage on Friday, talking about how he gives his children the freedom to pursue their interests—a big change from the time when he himself was starting out and had no choice on what professional path to choose
“Both Neerja (wife) and I felt that the kids should be given a chance to follow their passions,” the 52-year-old business leader said at the HT Leadership Summit when asked whether he was flexible and accommodating as a parent.
The Birlas have three children—Ananya (25), Aryaman (22) and Advaitesha, still a teenager.None has a role to play in the $48.3 billion (by revenue) conglomerate that has business interests ranging from textiles to telecommunications. The parents, or the group, haven’t ever spoken about a possible a role for them.
Ananya is a musician and founder of Svatantra Microfin Pvt. Ltd, a micro credit company she set up at the age of 17, according to information available on the company’s website. In 2015, she also launched an e-commerce marketplace, CuroCarte. His son Aryaman is a cricket player.
“We said to them you’ve got to take the rough and tumble yourself. I mean, I cannot go and sing or play cricket for him on the crease, I don’t know the microfinance business, and I have enough on my plate. So we have had a discussion about it; we are very happy for them to do what they are doing. They are both excelling,” Birla said.
He added that as parents, he and his wife hope their children will preserve their core family values, and develop a strong work ethic.
“I am very sure of one thing, that they need to develop a good work ethic—which I see both of them doing. They work incredibly hard in spheres that are incredibly tough and where they have some high ups and low downs, we are very happy about the way they are going about what they are doing.”
The one demand they make as parents is that they stick to family values. “And there, I think they are very tough on themselves in any case, in terms of being true to their family values,” Birla said.
Birla took over as chairman of the group in 1995, aged 28, after his father Aditya Vikram Birla passed away.
Over the last two decades, Birla has overseen the acquisition of around 35 entities in India and overseas.
Birla said his children today have the option of pursuing their interests. “As opposed to that, I didn’t have a choice,” he said.
Even so, he is grateful that his father pushed him to do what he did because he was lazy, he said.
Birla said he would have done things differently if he had a choice. “I think I would have been an entrepreneur, it would have been business but I would have probably started from scratch. It could have been a more interesting journey. I was pretty much told if you don’t do your CA (chartered accountancy) and your MBA (master of business administration)—I mean to the point of saying—you are out on your nose.”
But times have changed and one has to stay contemporary, Birla added. “That’s important.”