From a 12 year-old Dalit child bride to a self-made millionaire: Kalpana Saroj
“There are many roads… If one way doesn’t work out I try to think of another way. If that doesn’t work, I think what’s an alternative?” -This is how Kalpana Saroj has lived her entire life. Rising from rags to riches, she was grade nine school drop-out who now is the Chief Executive officer of Kamani Tubes in Mumbai, India.
Born in small village in Maharashtra and married at age of twelve, Saroj faced many hardships that eventually drove her to unsuccessfully trying to attempt suicide as young girl. As a Dalit woman, who had left her husband, she was ostracized by her village. But instead of going into a shell, she then turned her life around. Starting out as a worker who earned two rupees a day, she always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She soon took a government loan and started a small tailoring business and then a furniture business.
Kamani Tubes, a company that was once under debt of over $18million, was handed over to Saroj. She took over the company in 2006 and restructured it and within a very short span of time, turned it into a profit making venture.
Coming from a humble background, she tries to do everything she can for her workers. In an interview with BBC News India, she said, “I wanted to give justice to the people who were working there. I had to save the company. I could relate to the staff who needed to put food on the table for their family.”
Her efforts to help uplift Adivasis, and others who are discriminated against have been widely covered by national and international press. Her journey from a child-bride to a woman icon has been phenomenal for which she has garnered several accolades. In 1999, she was honored with the Savitri Phule Aadarsha Mahila Award. In the following years, she won the Rajiv Gandhi Award for Woman Entrepreneur and the Padma Shree Award. Today, her assets are worth $112 million but she believes her journey has just begun. Her next venture? She wants to set up a school for pilots at an aviation hub in native district, at an airport named after Dalit icon Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
[Featured Picture Courtesy: The Hans India]