Climbing up the corporate ladder and being able to be the boss of your own business is undoubtedly hard and more so if you are a woman, hailing from a lower middle-income family with no formal education. However, here is one woman who went against the tide to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in India today.
Kalpana Saroj’s life journey was not a walk in the park nor was it a breezy run. Born in poverty, she was forcibly married at a mere age of 12 and worse, got subjected to inhuman abuse by her in-laws.
Luckily, she was able to escape from the torturous situation but then the next problem awaited – society’s criticism and taunts which got to her to the point where she made an attempt to take her own life. However, the tragic incident was a turning point per se for Kalpana. “I don’t know how it is I didn’t die, given the quantity of poison I had but when I opened my eyes in the hospital room I was not the same person anymore. Gone was the naive helpless girl the world had deemed too worthless to exist,” she said.
Soon afterwards, Kalpana Saroj moved to Mumbai where she learnt tailoring. Being the eldest daughter of the family, she had to struggle a lot to make ends meet for her family. However, it was when her father lost his job and her younger sister fell ill, the treatment cost of which was too much to bear, that she realised the importance of money and wealth.
She soon applied for government loans and with the seed fund that she acquired, Kalpana started a small furniture business where she sold high-end used furniture at a low cost. This was the first stepping stone towards a successful entrepreneur that she was to become one day. Despite being a small scale, it was through this that she learnt the ABC of running a business – whether it is the art of negotiating or keeping track of the market trends.
As an entrepreneur who had to tread a difficult road herself, Kalpana Saroj knew what it is like to have no resource and guidance and she didn’t want anyone else to face the adversity like she did. Seeking to enlighten the younger generation with the information on government loans and various schemes, she also started a small NGO.
Simultaneously, she was looking for other business opportunities as well amid her thriving furniture business and this is how Kamani Tubes came into the picture! Back then, the company was on the brink of getting liquidated like its two sister companies and that is when the workers approached Kalpana, asking her to save their company. “My flourishing NGO and my business acumen had earned me a decent reputation among certain circles. My knowledge was nil, but the thought of 566 starving families gave me pause. I have nothing to lose, I thought,” said Kalpana Saroj.
For the first few years, the prime focus was on remodelling business operations to fix the damage, paying off debts and clearing the liability. Under her leadership, manufacturing process at Kamani Tubes was restarted with old machinery replaced with new ones and the company was finally back on track.
Founded by Ramjibhai Kamani, the ethos of Kamani Industries was deeply rooted in caring for workers’ welfare and contributing to the nation’s growth. Sharing the same vision and dreams as the founder, Kalpana Saroj seeks to take forward the company, grounded on the principles of justice and equality.