Ex-Chairman of BHEL, Maruti, and SAIL Dr. V Krishnamurthy passes away

Ex-Chairman of BHEL, Maruti, and SAIL Dr. V Krishnamurthy passes away
Krishnamurthy had earned a reputation as the “Turnaround Man” and fostered some of the biggest success stories of India’s public sector.

Dr. V. Krishnamurthy, former chairman of BHEL, Maruti Udyog, and SAIL and former Secretary of Industries, Government of India, dies at the age of 97. A loving father and grandfather, he leaves behind his sons, Chandra and Jayakar, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren

His grandson Mr. Hari Chandra has confirmed the sad demise on social media, and said, “It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Dr. Venkataraman Krishnamurthy, one of India’s greatest public servants, at the age of 97.

“We want to celebrate the extraordinary life of a man who made an immeasurable contribution to India in its 75 years as an independent nation, was widely known as India’s greatest public sector manager, and a model of professionalism and probity.” He added.

Krishnamurthy had earned a reputation as the “Turnaround Man” and fostered some of the biggest success stories of India’s public sector.

Born in Karuveli, Tamil Nadu, he started his illustrious career as a technician on the airfields during World War II before studying for a diploma in electrical engineering, following which he rose up through the ranks of the Madras Electricity Board.

By 1954, he had gained recognition from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and was appointed to the Planning Commission in charge of Power Projects. Later at BHEL, he helped save the company from its imminent disintegration.

As founding chairman of Maruti, he ushered in the modern era of the automobile industry in India, permanently altering the automotive landscape with his introduction of the Maruti 800.

He then went on to turn around the SAIL from a failing company, shaking up the entire organisation into an industry leader.

Dr. Krishnamurthy was born in 1925 in the village of Karuveli, Tanjore district in Tamil Nadu. As a poor boy from a rural area, the routes to higher education and employment were challenging and he enrolled in a technical course in electrical engineering and worked at the Madras State Electricity Board, initially as a technician, as the company was transferring from British ownership.

At the age of 30, in what he described as the turning point in his life, Dr. Krishnamurthy was appointed to India’s Planning Commission as the senior research officer responsible for power development.

In 1966, at the age of 41, Dr. Krishnamurthy was appointed as the general manager of BHEL’s Tiruchirappalli facility. The plant employed 7,000 people and was loss-making. By the third year of his appointment, BHEL Tiruchirappalli generated a profit and has remained the most profitable public sector unit in India. And eventually, he was appointed as Chairman of BHEL, India’s second-largest public sector unit at the time

In 1980, he was asked to Chair Maruti Motors and create a car for mass consumption. At the time, India was selling 40,000 cars per annum utilizing obsolete technology. He defied conventional wisdom and political preference and chose Suzuki as a technical partner.

In 1985, Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) was India’s largest lossmaking industrial company with 250,000 employees and Dr. VK was called on to turn it around. Over five years, he turned SAIL from the world’s highest-cost steel producer into one of the lowest and most profitable.

Post his official retirement, Dr. Krishnamurthy remained highly active in the public and private sector, serving on the Planning Commission, and created a number of private enterprises. Most notably, for over a decade until his 90th birthday, he served as Chairman of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, a cabinet-level position.

He was awarded the Padma Vibushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor and the Grand Cordon, Order of the Rising Sun, Japan’s highest presently awarded civilian honor for his contributions to India / Japan relations.


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