Shri Varahagiri Venkata Giri was born on 10 August, 1894 at Berhampore in Ganjam district at that time in the Madras Presidency and now in Orissa. He came from a Telugu speaking Brahmin family. His father Shri V.V. Jogaiah Pantulu was a prosperous lawyer at Berhampore and the leader of the local Bar. After his early education in his home-town Giri went to Ireland and joined the University of Dublin for higher studies. It was here that he came under the spell of the freedom struggle in Ireland and drew his inspiration from De Valera. He became associated with the Sinn Fein Movement and came in close contact with De Valera, Collins, Pearee, Desmond Fitzgerald, MacNeil, Connolly and others. Giri was called to the Bar during World War I and returned to India in 1916.
Upon returning to India, he became heavily involved in the labour movement. As early as 1922 he identified himself closely with the organization of the working classes and became a trusted lieutenant of N.M. Joshi. From that time onwards his main sphere of work was the Trade Union movement. To this day he is proud above all else of being a trade unionist, becoming general secretary and then president of the All-India Railwaymen's Federation and twice serving as president of the All-India Trade Union Congress. Giri first entered politics in 1937 when he became minister of labour and industries for the Congress Party government formed in the Madras Presidency. When the Congress governments resigned in 1942, he returned to the labour movement as part of the "quit India" movement and was imprisoned by the British.
During the Civil Disobedience Movement in the early thirties Giri, as a prominent labour leader, did much to organize trade unions in support of the nationalist movement. He was a member of the Indian Legislative Assembly from 1934 to 1937. In the 1936 General Election in Madras, after the introduction of the Act of 1935, Giri was put up as the Congress candidate in Bobbili against the Raja of Bobbili and he won that election. After the election when C. Rajagopalachari formed the Congress Ministry in Madras in 1937, V.V. Giri was naturally taken into the Cabinet and given the portfolio of Labour. Again after the General Election of 1946 in Madras Giri was taken into the Cabinet formed by T. Prakasam and given the portfolio of Labour. Later Giri was appointed India's High Commissioner in Ceylon.
He was a member of the Lok Sabha from 1952 to 1957. From 1952 to 1954 he was a member of the Union Cabinet and was given the portfolio of Labour. He served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Mysore. In 1967, during the period of turmoil, he was invited to be the Vice-President. Dr. Zakir Hussain died on 3 May, 1969, V.V. Giri had to officiate as the President. He was elected (1969) the fourth President of the Republic with the acclaim of the people.
Giri has written two books, one on "Industrial Relations" and the other on "Labour Problems in Indian Industry".