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‘Takeover specialist’ industrialist R P Goenka passes away

Industrialist Rama Prasad Goenka, architect of the RPG Enterprises conglomerate spanning varied interests from power to music, passed away at his residence on Sunday morning. Known as the country's 'takeover specialist', the 83-year-old industrialist was suffering from old-age related illnesses and breathed his last at 6.00 AM, family sources said.

Eldest son of Keshav Prasad Goenka said, he belonged to one of the oldest business families of the city. R P Goenka is survived by his wife Sushila and sons Harsh Vardhan and Sanjiv.

Goenka studied History from the prestigious Presidency College of Kolkata and later attended an advanced management programme at the Harvard University in USA. Described as 'one of Bengal's true champions of industry' by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, R P Goenka established RPG Enterprises in 1979 which included Phillips Carbon Black, Asian Cables, Agarpara Jute Mill and Murphy India with a turnover of about Rs 100 crore. Other major companies in the group's fold are power utility CESC, music production company Saregama and CEAT Tyres.

Goenka was one of the few industrialists who did not move out of West Bengal despite decline in the industrial atmosphere in the turbulent 1970's and 1980's and instead took over several industries owned by expats, who sold off their interests and left for their native places during this period.

The takeover baron acquired one giant company after another during the 80s, expanding the group's footprint across several businesses, including tyre, carbon black, transmission, pharmaceuticals, IT, power generation and music. In 1990, his sons Harsh Vardhan and Sanjiv took over as Chairman and Deputy Chairman respectively of RPG Enterprises.

In 2011, Sanjiv Goenka set up the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group for his own brand identity. Harsh Goenka continued as Chairman of RPG Enterprises.R P Goenka remained Chairman Emeritus of both the groups with a combined turnover of around Rs 30,000 crore.

He had served as president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

For several years he was Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT-Kharagpur, which later conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Science degree. He also took interest in politics and was a member of Rajya Sabha from 2000 to 2006. Goenka was known to be an excellent crisis manager and was close to former Kolkata Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. Following his demise, several industrialists, ministers and leaders visited the Goenka residence in south Kolkata to pay their last respects.

'I express my heartfelt condolence for the sad demise of Shri R P Goenka. Today we have lost one of Bengal's true champions of industry,' Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said in a message. Banerjee, who herself was ill and was released from hospital on Saturday, was represented by minister Firhad Hakim who paid floral tributes to the departed industrialist at the Goenka residence.

Nirupam Sen, former industry minister during the Left Front government, said it was a loss for the state and that he was indebted to Goenka for his advice on improving the industrial climate in the state.

WBPCC president Pradip Bhattacharjee described Goenka's death as a personal loss. 'He was like my elder brother. He was not only a great industrialist but also a great human being. He had contributed enormously for the economic development of the state.'
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