Industrialist Brij Mohan Khaitan also known as BMK or Brij Babu by his friends in business circle, passed away on Saturday morning at his Kolkata residence due to old age.
Mr. Khaitan, 92, was the visionary behind the Williamson Magor Group (WMG) that deals in dry-cell battery, Tea and Engineering services. He has great contributions to the Tea Industry with which he has been associated for over four decades. He initially made his fortune in the tea business and then went on to acquire the Indian business of Union Carbide – Eveready Industries – in 1993, after outrunning the Wadias of Bombay Dyeing in a $96.5-million deal.
Early Days and His Rise of Power
Born on August 14, 1927, to a wealthy and educated Marwari family, Khaitan started his career as a supplier of fertilizer and tea chests to the parent of McLeod Russel. However, in 1961, when a crisis loomed over the company as Bajoria, an existing investor, acquired nearly 25 percent stake in Bishnauth Tea Company, the in the Williamson Magor Tea Estates, the Khaitan family provided the money to buy out Bajoria’s stake. Khaitan was invited to join the board of the company and later went on to become Managing Director of the Williamson Magor Group.
The partnership at WMG was only the beginning of a long journey as Khaitan acquired one company after another — a business trait like his close friend, Rama Prasad Goenka, the founder of RPG Group.
In 1987, when the Guthrie family, the largest shareholder in the McLeod Russel Group, wanted to exit India, Khaitan only negotiated a deal and bought out the estates. This move made WMG the largest tea producer in the world. Later, under his leadership, the tea company went on to expand its operations in Africa and Vietnam.
Under his astute management, McLeod Russel became and has remained the world’s largest bulk tea producer at least till recently.
Brij Mohan not only expanded the tea business with the Williamson Magor but diversified whenever possible. The group acquired the Union Carbide India business in 1994, fighting the Wadias. This was billed at that time as one of the largest takeovers of a foreign firm by an Indian company. Today, Eveready Industries continues to be the largest producer of dry cell batteries in India with a market share of more than 50 percent.
In April 2019, Citing old age, he stepped down as the chairman from the boards of the group’s two key companies — Eveready Industries India Ltd. and McLeod Russel India Ltd. He, however, remained chairman emeritus for both the companies.
He is survived by his son Aditya, daughter Divya and grandson Amritanshu. As of today, Deepak’s son Amritangshu is at the helm of Eveready, while Aditya looks after the tea business.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have offered their condolences. In a tweet, Banerjee said, “Saddened at the passing away of noted industrialist B.M. Khaitan Ji. He was a much-respected elder statesman of the business community of Bengal. My condolences to his family, his colleagues and his friends.”
Indian Chamber of Commerce said: “ICC is extremely grieved to learn the sad demise of B.M. Khaitan ji. We deeply mourn his sad demise as he was our revered guide and patron. His passing away is a great loss to the family and to the Business fraternity as well. He was a doyen of the Indian industry.”
Mr. Khaitan got the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ICC in 2013. A winner of the ICC Calcutta Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013, Khaitan has served as the ICC president in 1973.