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 industry in Western India. 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. Karamshi’s young, fresh mind was moulded by Gandhiji's ideas of 'Swadeshi' and 'Satyagraha'.
Young Karamshibhai Somaiya began his career by engaging in his father's small grocery business and then went on to become a partner in a leading sugar trading firm in the area while continuing to nurture his dream of contributing to the creation of a resurgent India – a vision painted by Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda.
In the year 1939, Shri K. J. Somaiya launched 2 sugar factories – in Sakarwadi and in Lakshmiwadi to mark the launch of his own sugar business. He soon came to be known as the Sugar King of India.
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". No sketch of Shri K.J. Somaiya can be complete without mentioning his philanthropy. You can read more about it under the Outreach section of this website.
Shri K.J. Somaiya was warm and endearing. Stately in appearance, immaculately dressed, generally in spotless white hand spun khadi, he exuded a picture of resourcefulness and restraint. He was compassionate and reached out to those in suffering. In all he did, 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". Karamshibhai's life exemplified this lofty principle through practice.
Shri Karamshibhai 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.
Read his biography online: Biography of Padma Bhushan Karamshi Jethabhai Somaiya by Raja Mangalvedekar