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About the Founder

"Whatever you do in word or in deed, Do all in the name of the Lord, Giving thanks to Him" --  Padma Bhushan Shri Karamshibhai Jethabhai Somaiya.

It's no small achievement to distinguish oneself in such diverse fields as commerce, education, and philanthropy. Pujya Shriman Karamshibhai Jethabhai Somaiya, born on May 16 1902 in the remote village of Malunjar in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, India, was however, a blessed person by dint of hard work and singular devotion to service.

Born to humble beginnings he rose to become one of the doyens of the sugar industry in Western India. His pioneering efforts revolutionized the sugar industry. Karamshibhai was a humble person. He worked hard and for long hours.

The young Karamshi, after completing school at the New High School in Mumbai (now the Bharda School) went back to his hometown in Ahmednagar embarking on a career of tireless work marked by singular devotion to whatever he did.

The early decades of the 20th century were a period of significant national resurgence and no sensitive young man could ignore the stirring presence of Mahatma Gandhi. Karamshi was no exception. His ever seeking mind was moulded by Gandhiji's ideas of 'Swadeshi' and 'Satyagraha'. To make India independent and industrially and economically advanced, was the dream of every young mind.

Young Karamshibhai Somaiya engaged in looking after his father's small grocery business, would travel from village to village selling groceries and booking orders all the while nursing the dream of the resurgent India of Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda.

To further his dream of contributing to India's economic independence, he became a partner in a leading sugar trading firm M/s. Shobachand Ramnarayan Kothod of Shrirampur in Ahmednagar district. His knowledge of the sugar industry was soon widely acknowledged and respected and in course of time he came to be called 'the Sugar King of India'.

When in the thirties the Deccan canals were commissioned by the Government, Shri K.J. Somaiya launched the Sakarwadi factory in 1939, and another, Lakshmiwadi factory in 1941,the start of the Godavari Sugar Mills Ltd. in Maharashtra State. One of the most successful entrepreneurs of recent times in the State, Shri K.J. Somaiya occupied many positions of public responsibility. He was the President of the Deccan Sugar Factories Association, the President of the Deccan Sugar Technologists Association and played a leading part in the deliberations of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He was often consulted on matters crucial to the Sugar Industry.

Endowed with a sharp business acumen, a balanced perspective and a social bent of mind he set up the Somaiya Trust in 1953 for furthering his dream of shaping young minds through quality education. For this purpose he bought a large area of land at Ghatkopar in the godforsaken outlying eastern suburb of Mumbai, much to the consternation of the members of his family and colleagues. It was no place they thought to develop an educational complex in a far flung marshy swamp!

Shri K. J. Somaiya proved all skeptics wrong as witnessed by the mushrooming growth of Ghatkopar as a formidable centre of middle class living. Karamshibhai laid the foundation for Somaiya Vidyavihar in 1959. In close to four and a half decades it has grown into a large educational complex with 32 institutions catering to diverse fields of education such as Humanities, Engineering, Education, Medicine, Management and Mass Communication, with more than 23000 students and 1500 teaching faculty on a throbbing 65 acre campus!

It was the vision of Shri K. J. Somaiya that modern professional education must remain true to the spirit of Indian ethos and culture. He insisted on value-based education, believing firmly that a community uncaring for its traditions is decadent and insubstantial. He was passionate about propagating the Sanskrit language and the promotion of studies in ancient Indian thought and culture. He envisaged Somaiya Vidyavihar as the Nalanda of learning where students and teachers would live in an intellectual and spiritual fellowship.

No sketch of Shri K. J. Somaiya can be complete without mentioning his philanthropy. He established the Girivanavasi Pragati Mandal in 1974 in the tribal area of Dahanu, in Thane District, 110 kms from Mumbai, to alleviate the problems and suffering of the tribal community. Well known surgeons and physicians were associated with the annual eye-cum-medical camps.

The Mandal established a training centre and experimental farm for agriculture extension work. He founded a residential school to cater to the educational needs of children of the migrant tribal population providing free quality instruction. He also built a 40 bed hospital with a resident doctor facility to cater to their health needs. Shri K. J. Somaiya himself worked in these centres and conducted health camps setting an example of selfless service. His work in the drought affected districts of Gujarat, specially Kutch, during 1987-88 won the appreciation of the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi.

In all he did, Pujya Karamshibhai brought a sense of love and humanism, qualities imbibed in his early youth from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He believed in the ancient Sanskrit saying (na manushit paro dharmah). "There is no religion greater than Man". "There is no life that is not in community" said eminent poet T.S. Eliot. Pujya Karamshibhai's life exemplified these lofty principles through practice.

Shri K. J. Somaiya passed away on May 9, 1999, a week before his 97th birthday. Somaiya Vidyavihar is the living legacy he has left behind, a standing monument to his sagacity, perseverance and foresight.

Shri K. J. Somaiya was warm and endearing. Stately in appearance, immaculately dressed, generally in spotless white hand spun khaddar, he exuded a picture of resourcefulness and restraint. He was compassionate and reached out to those in suffering. At the age of 60 he relinquished the leadership of his economic enterprise to his son Dr Shantilal Somaiya, and fully immersed himself in social service. He was committed to the ideal "what you receive from society give back multifold".


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Updated: 20/03/2017