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April 4, 2013

Shobhana Bhartia – A tryst with Success

Being a woman has not been a hindrance for Shobhana at all. She inherited the Hindusthan Times Group from her father and is presently the Editorial Director and Managing Director (or Chairperson) of one of the largest media houses of this country.

Hailing from Family Backgrounds that needs no introduction

Born to a family of highly gifted businessmen and personalities, Shobhana was born and brought up in Kolkata (known as Calcutta at that time). Her father, Shri Krishna Kumar Birla and her grand father, Shri G. D. Birla are eminent persona themselves. While the senior Birla has the credit of establishing many a educational institute, K. K. Birla is  a successful industrialist as well as a loyal member of the Congress Party.

Shobhana was married to Shyam Sunder Bhartia, a famous entrepreneur himself midway during her studies. He is the chairman of Jubilant Life Science Ltd., an off shoot of Vam Organics, a chemical venture. However, her in laws supported her in her choice to complete the degree through correspondence.

Their son, Shamit has grown into a young man who is as capable as his parents and ancestors. He holds a prominent position with the Hindusthan Times group as well, with the additional responsibility of looking after other lifestyle businesses such as Domino’s Pizza, franchise of convenience store chain known as Monday to Friday, etc. Shamit is married to Nayantara Kothari, whose father is also an industrialist. Nayantara's mother is the daughter of Shri Dhiru Bhai Ambani, the renowned personality behind Reliance Group. Thus, Mukesh and Anil Ambani, sons of Dhiru Bhai and eminent business tycoons themselves, are uncles of Nayantara. Needless to say, Shamit and Nayantara’s wedding attracted lot of media attention – because it also marked the union of two powerful business families.  

Thus, business acumen has been instilled in Shobhana right from her childhood. Her association with the Bhartias and Ambanis have contributed in enhancing her skills.  


Shobhana went to Loreto House, a popular English medium convent school of Calcutta. She went on to pursue her graduation from Calcutta University.

Career and Multiple Responsibilities

K. K. Birla introduced his daughter to the Hindusthan Times Group way back in 1986, when she joined as the chief executive – Shobhana was not only the youngest, but also the first woman to hold such a position with a national daily.

Being young and independent, Shobhana had quite a few innovative ideas to re-vamp the Hindusthan Times as a paper that is circulated daily. Her significant contribution to this turnaround helped the paper to not only survive against cut throat competition, but be looked upon as a “young, vibrant and fresh” news digest.

Even in 1986, Shobhana could foresee the changing patterns of the readers and moulded the paper accordingly. She introduced various new columns and redesigned the supplement that contained the local news as well as entertainment industry all over the globe. Along with her marketing team, she developed various schemes and offers to lure in readers – and after the expiry of the offer period, the reader would find himself hooked to the well designed newspaper that was suited to his busy lifestyle. Realizing that often young professionals read while commuting in metro trains, suburban rail, buses or auto rickshaws, Shobhana experimented with the size of the paper and introduced a tabloid. It became very popular.

She also plays the crucial role of Pro Chancellor of Birla Institute of technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, an institute founded by her grandfather.  Today, she is part of the Board of Governors of this institute.  On her shoulders she carries the responsibility of being the Chairperson of Endeavour India. She is also the Director of multiple ventures under the umbrella of this group – Nilgiri Plantations Ltd., Airtravel Bureau Limited, Earthstone Holding Private Ltd., Firefly e-ventures Ltd.,  etc.

She has also been an independent non executive director and later became the Additional Director of Hero Honda Motors Ltd. She is also a member of the board of Indian Airlines Limited and North Regional Board of the Reserve Bank of India. She has held the position of Director of the Press Trust of India (PTI) Limited – another eminent name in the media industry.


Shobhana Bhartia has received many recognitions and accolades in her career. She was conferred with the “National Press India” award in 1992, while the World Economic Forum has deemed her as the “Global Leader of Tomorrow” in 1996, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry has identified her as the “Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year” in 2001. She has also the receiver of “Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence” in 2007, etc. She was also named among the Top 50 Businesswomen in India, compiled by Forbes Asia.

However, the most important award received by this extremely talented lady is the Padma Shri, an honour which she received in 2005 for Journalism.

An alternate career that changed her life   

After receipt of the Padma Shri award, many avenues opened for Shobhana. One of them was her nomination in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament or the Rajya Sabha in 2006. There were some controversies pertaining to her membership, because this position was reserved for eminent personalities from fields such as literature, science, art or social service and she was portrayed as a business person with commercial interests.

It was lucky for the nation that such objections were over ruled. Shobhana became an active member of the Rajya Sabha, contributing majorly in action against social evils such as women and child related issues. She introduced the Child Marriage (Abolition) and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill in 2006 itself. She continues working enthusiastically to make our societies better and safer places for all citizens, especially the women, children and elderly.

She was also given the responsibility of being Chairperson of Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) in 2006 – 07. She continued her involvement with various industrial associations all over the country as well as foreign nations. She is also part of the Commonwealth Press Union, London and International Press Institute, Vienna.  

Tags : Shobhana Bhartia, Hindusthan Times, Birla, Rajya Sabha

About Anupama

A Transport Planner and Architect, Anupama has been blogging for about six years now. She has taken up professional content writing for the last two years, and can always be contacted for any assignments or queries. Her strength is original presentation of any topic.