Niira Radia Biography
A former corporate lobbyist, aviation consultant and PR veteran, Niira Radia is an entrepreneur and humanitarian. She is also the chairperson of medical care organization Nayati Healthcare & Research Pvt. Ltd. Radia has also established a charitable trust named Sudesh Foundation, which aids scholars and devotional singers in career progression.
|Category||Hospital & Health Care|
|Occupation||Chairperson of Nayati Healthcare|
|Birthdate||19 November 1960|
|Hometown||New Delhi, India|
|School||Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, London|
|Kids||Son : Akshay Radia, Karan Radia, Akash Radia|
Daughter : Gauri Krishna
Early life and marriage (1960 – 1994)
Niira Radia was born on 19 November 1960 to Iqbal Narain Menon and Sudesh Rani Menon in Nairobi, Kenya. She has two siblings, sisters Karuna Menon and Saira Menon. The family moved to London, UK in the 1970s, where she attended Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls. She later pursued higher education from the University of Warwick.
In 1981, Niira married a Gujarati businessman Janak Radia. She has four children – sons Akshay Radia, Karan Radia and Akash Radia, and daughter Gauri Krishna. In 1994, Niira divorced her husband and shifted her base to India as a Person of Indian Origin (PIO). A believer in numerology, she added an extra alphabet to her name on the advice of a numerologist, spelling it as ‘Niira’.
Career as a travel agent (1988 – 1995)
Between 1988 and 1993 Niira Radia incorporated a string of travel and aviation related companies in London, in which she and her family members were shareholders and held positions such as company secretary and director. By 1995 these companies had been liquidated, many of them after filing bankruptcy.
Foray into aviation (1994 – 1998)
In 1994, at the behest of her father, Niira Radia met Sahara Airlines CEO Uttam Kumar Bose and aided the Sahara Group in negotiating with International Lease Finance Corporation, a Los Angeles based company, for the lease of two Boeing 737-400 aircraft and spare parts. Her work impressed the Sahara Group, which hired her as an aviation consultant.
In 1995, she set up an office in New Delhi. While working with the Sahara Group, she used her expertise in travel and aviation to resolve the company’s issues. During her tenure, she met Rao Dheeraj Singh, a traffic supervisor with Sahara Airlines, who later joined her as a business partner in Crownmart International, an aviation firm.
In 1997, Niira Radia managed to successfully negotiate the purchase of helicopters by Sahara Airlines from Eurocopter. The deal netted her a huge commission. After the BJP-led NDA came to power in 1998, Radia shared a cordial relationship with the then-Minister of Civil Aviation, Anantha Kumar. In the same year, she incorporated Crownmart International (India) and became its CEO. In this period, she gained several political allies and brokered several major aviation deals that fetched her huge commissions.
As an airline owner (2000 – 2004)
Niira Radia first tried to run an airline business in 2000 with CrownAir. However, the Ministry of Civil Aviation refused to provide permits since it failed to meet the requirements for adequate paid-up capital, ownership pattern, equity base and appointment of a chairman. Later, in 2004, she tried to start her own airline by taking over the defunct ModiLuft and renaming it Magic Air. However, the venture failed to secure permissions from the Ministry of Civil Aviation owing to her foreign citizenship and rules forbidding foreign investment in Indian domestic aviation.
Niira Radia’s relationship with Ratan Tata and foray into PR (2000 – 2008)
In 2000, Singapore Airlines was trying to re-negotiate a more liberal air bilateral pact with the Indian civil aviation ministry. The primary objective behind the renegotiation was to obtain a staggered increase in its flight frequencies over a multi-year period. After several failed rounds of talks, the airline approached Niira Radia, who managed to secure a deal.
Around the same time, Singapore Airlines was also in talks with industry mogul Ratan Tata over a 40 per cent stake in Air India. The airlines’ success brought about by Radia led the former to put in a good word for her. This is how Niira Radia’s long professional relationship with Ratan Tata began.
In 2001, Radia had set up Vaishnavi Communications, a PR firm. Impressed by her work with the Singapore Airlines, Ratan Tata offered all 90 Tata Group accounts to Radia. Her PR firm was a success, and secured more high-profile accounts including Unitech Group, Confederation of Indian Industry, Hindustan Construction Company and the GMR Group. She later set up another PR firm, named Noesis Strategic Consulting Services Pvt. Ltd.
Founder of Sudesh Foundation (2002)
In the memory of her mother, Sudesh Rani Menon, Niira Radia established a charitable trust named Sudesh Foundation in 2002. The foundation made news by funding the construction of a Pejavara Adokshaja Math Sri Krishna temple. Sudesh Foundation also aided scholars publish their books and devotional singers get their music CDs released.
Chairperson of Nayati Healthcare (2012 – Present)
In 2012, Niira Radia established Nayati Healthcare and Research Pvt. Ltd., and incorporated it as a non-government organization (NGO). The healthcare venture is aimed at providing quality medical care service to the remotest parts of the country. Nayati started its operations as a fleet of mobile medical units (MMUs) in Badrinath Dham. Later, two multi-specialty hospitals – Nayati Medicity and Nayati Hospital – were established in Mathura and Agra respectively. The healthcare venture expanded to New Delhi with the acquisition of Sunder Lal Jain Hospital and Vimhans PrimaMed.
Niira Radia Controversies
Kidnapping of son (2003)
In 2003, Niira Radia’s former business associate Rao Dheeraj Singh was arrested by Delhi Police in connection to the alleged kidnapping of Radia’s teenage son. In a 2011 interview, Singh described the kidnapping charge against him as a result of the business rivalry between him and Niira Radia. This led Radia’s son to file contempt of court charges against Singh.
Niira Radia tapes controversy (2008 – 2009)
The Income Tax Department, in connection with the 2G spectrum deals, tapped Niira Radia’s phone lines for a period of 300 days between 2008 and 2009. The recordings of these calls, popular in public knowledge as ‘The Niira Radia Tapes’, contained conversations with several politicians, senior journalists and socialites. These tapes appear to depict how Radia influenced K. Raja’s appointment as the Telecom Minister, and subsequently interfered in the 2G spectrum auction.
Biography by RK Anand (2011)
In 2011, lawyer RK Anand attempted to launch a ‘tell-all’ biography of Niira Radia and her activities as a corporate lobbyist, titled ‘Close Encounters of Niira Radia’. Alleging that Anand had revealed “privileged communications” between a lawyer and a client, Niira Radia demanded ₹1 crore as damages. The book was originally slated for a launch in June 2011. However, the Delhi High Court stayed the release and circulation of the book.
Niira Radia Panama Papers Controversy (2016)
The Panama Papers, leaked in 2016, contained the mention of Nira Radia, a PR professional who managed an offshore business entity registered in the British Virgin Islands, in cahoots with Mossack Fonesca, a Panamanian law firm. However, the name was recorded before she added an extra alphabet to her name, leading to ambiguity around Radia’s actual involvement with Mossack Fonesca.
Niira Radia Loan Fraud Case (2020)
In November 2020, the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of Delhi Police has registered an FIR against Niira Radia and four others from Nayati Healthcare for alleged embezzlement of over ₹300 crore of bank loan. Radia dismissed the allegations as baseless.