Indian Cement Billionaire Jai Hari Dalmia Dies

Cement tycoon Jai Hari Dalmia, 76, who controlled the $1.6 billion (revenue) Dalmia Bharat Group with his younger sibling Yadu Hari Dalmia, died Thursday. It is believed that patriarch was being treated for post-Covid-19 complications. 

Dalmia was a non-executive director at the 82-year-old New Delhi group, whose flagship Dalmia Bharat is India’s fourth-largest cement company by capacity. The brothers appeared on the World Billionaires List earlier this year with a combined fortune of $2.2 billion. The bulk of their wealth is drawn from a majority stake in the cement company, which has seen its shares soar 190% in the past year.

The Dalmias are a storied business clan and one of the more prominent business families in north India. Jai Hari’s father, Jaidayal Dalmia, had set up a cement business in 1939. The fourth of seven brothers, Jai Hari joined the family business in 1970, after completing his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Jadavpur University and earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne.

Along with his younger brother Yadu Hari Dalmia (a chartered accountant and the sixth of seven brothers), he separated from the broader family in the mid-1980s and took over Dalmia Cement. At the time, this business consisted of a small cement unit in south India, two refractory units and an iron ore mine in Karnataka state.

From that base, the two brothers, who went on to work together for four decades, steered the company through the era of  strict government controls. In an earlier interview, Jai Hari recalled that challenging period: “Prices of all major inputs—fuel, power, wages as well as products—were completely controlled. Sales and distribution were also controlled. And funding for any project was available only from public sector institutions.” This ended with India’s economic liberalization in 1991. Dalmia Bharat now has 13 factories across nine states and operates through a network of 32,000 dealers and sub-dealers across the country. Cashing in on new opportunities, the brothers diversified into the sugar business in the mid-1990s. 

 Jai Hari had a special interest in research and development and advocated green manufacturing. The cement company has committed to using 100% renewable electricity to run its business by 2030. In 2016, it became the first cement company to be part of RE100—a global initiative which gets businesses to commit to 100% renewable electricity.

Four family members across two generations work in the group. Jai Hari’s son Gautam, an engineering grad from Columbia University, runs the sugar business and Yadu Hari’s son Puneet, a management grad, runs the cement business. While the younger generation has recruited professionals to run various businesses, a family council makes joint strategic decisions. 

A statement released by the family said that the patriarch would be remembered for his “generosity and charismatic personality” and for having been the “guiding light” for the family.

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