Kalpana Saroj is a female Indian entrepreneur and a TEDx speaker, born in Roperkheda village in Maharashtra, India. She is the Chairperson of Kamani Tubes in Mumbai, India. She born in poverty and subjected to inhuman abuse, she overcame impossible odds to become one of the most sought after entrepreneurs in the country. Today she is at the helm of a $112 million empire that is growing rapidly. How she did that is as heartbreaking as it is faith-affirming. The only lesson you need to understand from her journey, she insists, is that ivy league degrees and fancy MBAs are not what makes an entrepreneur.
“I was born in a Dalit family, in a village in Akola. When I was 12, everyone pushed my dad to get me married to a man, 10 years my senior, who lived in Mumbai. My dad didn’t want to, but because of societal pressure, I was married off.
I came here and learned that his family lived in one room in a slum and he didn’t even have a job. I was treated horribly – if there was extra salt in the food I cooked or any mistakes I made, I was beaten up by my in-laws… It was my personal hell.
Following a half year, my dad visited me – he couldn’t remember me. I was in worn-out garments and I’d lost my grin. He battled with my in-laws and took me home. Educating me to overlook it like an awful dream. But individuals began accusing me. I even attempted to end it all – despite everything they said that I was surrendering on the grounds that I HAD accomplished something incorrectly, not the different way. It was then that I understood that on the off chance that I would have been accused regardless, I’d preferably live.
With this new leaf turned, I returned to Mumbai and worked as a tailor. That was the first time I saw what Rs 100 looked like. I rented a room in Kalyan for my savings and called my family here. We were managing fine – but when we couldn’t afford to save my sister’s life, I realized that I needed to make more money for my family. So I took a government loan and started my own furniture business. It was doing well and we began living a better life.
But there were so many people out there struggling, just like I used to. So I started an NGO to help them get loans. Sometimes, I helped them out of my own pocket and slowly built a good reputation for my social work. Which is why the workers of Kamani Tubes asked me to help save their company. It was tied up in 140 litigation cases, with a debt of 116 crores. Everyone told me that it was suicide – but 500+ families were starving! So I chose to help, wanting nothing but justice for them in return. I spoke to the finance minister and he got the debt reduced. I gathered a team and shifted factories. Everything I tried was new – but there was no fear left in me.
In 2006, I turned into the administrator. We were reprimanded to pay the bank advances inside 7 years. We did it inside 1 and we even figured out how to pay the specialists. Gradually and without a doubt, things changed and today, the turnover is beyond what we could dream of, I was even granted the Padma Shri in 2013 for my work. I’ve had a staggering adventure, from a Dalit Child-Bride to a proprietor of a multi-million dollar organization. It’s been intense – however, I’ve tried to never give the dread of moves a chance to overwhelm me. I set aside me a long effort to discover that, however at this point I have, I can’t confront existence without having full confidence in myself.”