TomorrowMakers

Kalpana Saroj has proven that she has grit, guts, and gumption in the face of all odds. She is currently regarded as one of the most sought-after entrepreneurs in the country. Let's look at what makes her story so inspiring. While being at the head of six companies, she rules an empire that has a net worth of US$112 million.

The inspiring story of Kalpana Saroj

Kalpana Saroj has demonstrated that she has grit, guts, and gumption no matter what the odds. Currently, she is regarded as one of the most sought-after entrepreneurs in the country. With six companies under her control, she controls an empire worth US$112 million. Take a look at what makes her so remarkable. 

Her journey toward success remains truly inspiring. Hailing from a socially backward community, she had to face a lot of trials and tribulations to gain a respectable status in society. In the end, it has been the victory of her sheer willpower, hard work and patience. 

Tough childhood

Born into a Dalit family in a village of Vidarbha, Maharashtra, her father was a police constable and the family lived in police quarters. Among the siblings, they were two brothers and three sisters. At school, she was not permitted to take part in extracurricular activities. She was quite a bright student who enjoyed attending school. However, she was disapproved of by the teachers, and she had to face ostracism at their hands. 

When she turned 12, she was married off into an economically backward family in Mumbai. She had to live in squalid living conditions in a slum. 

Fed up of her miserable situation, she walked out of her marriage and returned home. However, she had to face the wrath of villagers who taunted her and her family. She decided to put an end to the mental agony and decided to take her own life. She, however, managed to survive. 

After this depressing episode, she felt that life had somewhere given her a second chance, and she must not waste it. At least not this time. She decided to stop getting into self-pity mode. 

Towards new beginnings

She moved back to Mumbai and started staying with her uncle. After that, she began working as an assistant tailor for a nearby garment factory. She rose to the level of senior tailor within a few months, mastered sewing on an industrial sewing machine, and also received a decent raise. Her life was looking up when suddenly tragedy struck. Her sister died because there wasn't enough money for her proper treatment.

Taking things in control

Her sister’s untimely death proved to be a shocker for her. Her choices led her to become an entrepreneur rather than settling for a regular job. While listening to the radio, she got to know that the government offered loans to Dalits. With the money she borrowed, she purchased a few sewing machines which she installed at home and began working nearly 16 hours a day. Slowly and steadily, the business grew, and she opened a furniture business in parallel to the tailoring business. 

Venturing into real estate

She saw an opportunity in real estate when she received a proposal to buy land for Rs 2.5 lakh. Legal troubles had caught up with this piece of property and he needed the money now. It was agreed that she would pay him a lakh in advance, and cleared the remaining amount within a few months. She fought the legal battle for two years and ultimately won the case. She was further emboldened by this victory.

Awards and Recognition

Kalpana Saroj received the Padma Shri for Trade and Industry in 2013 in recognition of her work with Kamani Tubes and others. She has risen to the top of her profession through sweat and hard work, earning the nickname "original Slumdog Millionaire."

She was later appointed to the Board of Directors of Bharati Mahila Bank, an Indian bank that caters to women. Furthermore, she serves on the Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, a highly regarded management institute in India.

She also received Savitribai Phule Award in 2009 by Inspector General of Police, Maharashtra. In 2016, she was awarded World Buddhist Outstanding Leader Award by World Alliance of Buddhist leaders.

Global Presence

Kalpana Saroj represented India at the International Dalit Conference held in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, and Canada. She also represented India at the World Peace Conference in the United States. Her conversation with Mayor Madhav Rao Patil at Buddha Viharas in London covered social and cultural issues. 

Taking bigger strides

The workers of Kamani Tubes, a metal engineering company engulfed in massive debts, approached her to take charge and settle the debts.
As a result, she assembled a team of 10 members to take the reins of running the business. Her long-term strategy paid off, and Kamani Tubes turned a new chapter in terms of profit-making.

Having risen from the slums of Mumbai to holding the position of the Chairperson of a renowned industrial set up, which has a net worth of at least Rs 1000 crore. Today, she truly remains a living inspiration for many individuals.