The story of warrior Kalpana Saroj ; the First Women Entrepreneur of India
Updated: Aug 8
Kalpana Saroj is an amazing Indian philanthropist and entrepreneur who overcome major obstacles to attain success and contribute to social change. Her life narrative exemplifies perseverance, determination, and the power of business.
Dr. Kalpana Saroj is an exceptional example of someone who has defied all difficulties to become one of India's most successful entrepreneurs, and he received the Padma Shri award from the Indian government in 2013.
Dr. Kalpana Saroj was born in 1961, to a lower-middle-class family in Roperkheda village , Akola district of Maharashtra, where her father worked as a police constable. She grew up in poverty and faced discrimination due to her lower-caste background. Despite the hardships, Kalpana was determined to pursue an education and make a better life for herself.
She was married off at the juvenile age of 12, to a poor Indian family, which was fully led by a patriarchal idea that a daughter-in-law is to be treated like a domestic worker.
When Saroj's father learned of the abuse being meted out to his daughter, he decided to bring her home and beg her to finish her studies.However, unable to cope with the societal pressures and stigma associated with women who leave their husbands, she attempted suicide in 1980 by consuming three bottles of poison. But, as fate would have it, Saroj was saved in the nick of time by her mother.
In the early 1980s, Kalpana moved to Mumbai (then Bombay) in search of opportunities. With determination and hard work, she began her entrepreneurial journey by starting a tailoring business with a small loan. She gradually expanded her business operations and ventured into real estate and construction.
That, according to Dr. Kalpana Saroj, was a watershed moment in her life."I had been given a second chance at life, and I now wanted to make the most of it."However, another tragedy befell Saroj's family when her younger sister died of a treatable illness because her family could not afford her care."The importance of money dawned on me that fateful day, and I resolved to do something about it."
Dr. Kalpana Saroj was eventually able to obtain a Rs 50,000 loan from a Mumbai bank under a government scheme to encourage young people to start businesses after running from pillar to post. She eventually opened a boutique and a small furniture business. She also set up a platform where she informed other young people about the scheme and assisted them in obtaining it. Dr. Kalpana Saroj gradually gained popularity among the youths, who began to see her with their issues.
Philanthropy and Social Impact:
Kalpana Saroj has been actively involved in philanthropic efforts focused at empowering marginalised people, particularly Dalits and women. She has contributed to educational projects, vocational training programmes, and efforts aimed at improving the lives of the impoverished.
Her most notable accomplishment today is her ability to turn around Kamani Tubes in India, which was saddled with INR 1.16 billion in debt, into a profitable enterprise.The company had been closed for many years when a judge ordered the workers to manage it in 1987, but they failed to do so. Saroj was approached one day by a group of colleagues to take over the company. She was first hesitant, but after much thinking, she decided to give it a chance.
Turning Around Kamani Tubes:
Kalpana Saroj's assistance in restoring the financially challenged Kamani Tubes, a steel industry company, was one of her major accomplishments. Despite scepticism and obstacles, she was able to turn around the company's fortunes, saving thousands of jobs in the process.
Dr. Kalpana Saroj is also appreciative to Kamani Tubes' lenders, who agreed to her request to minimise the penalties added to the company's principle liability amount. "Else, it would not have been viable." She took over in 2009 and by 2011 had cleared the principle loan amount of INR 600 million while earning a profit of INR 45 million. "The most rewarding moment was when the banks gave me a 25% discount on the principal amount for meeting my commitment."Saroj, who now owns a company worth INR 2.5 billion, believes that marginalised individuals, particularly women, must overcome fear in order to achieve success.
Kalpana Saroj’s Advice for Young Entrepreneurs
Recognition and Awards:
Kalpana Saroj's achievements have earned her national and international recognition. She received the Padma Shri award, one of India's highest civilian honors, in 2013, in recognition of her contributions to trade and industry.
Dr. Kalpana Saroj has built a successful firm from the ground up and is offering advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Kalpana Saroj provides four bits of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
Never give up.
When Kalpana Saroj first launched her firm, she faced numerous hurdles. But she didn't give up, and her company is now one of India's largest real estate firms. If you want to create a great business, don't give up when things get difficult; instead, fight until you attain your goal.
Persistence is required for success. When people give up on their dreams, they frequently stop trying entirely. Persistence will help you attain your goals, no matter how challenging they appear at first.
Believe in yourself.
When things are going well, it can be difficult to believe in yourself, but it is essential for success. No one else will believe in you if you don't believe in yourself.
To be successful, you must be innovative. This means you must come up with new ideas and answers, even if they appear unattainable at first. Creativity is the key to realising your full potential as an entrepreneur.
Kalpana Saroj's journey from a disadvantaged background to becoming a successful entrepreneur and a champion for social change serves as an inspiration to many. Her story highlights the transformative potential of entrepreneurship and the importance of using one's success to uplift others and create a positive impact on society.
Shared by Kalpana Saroj during an interview with
Dr.Rumi Borah, Editor in-Chief - She Business Time
Published by She Business Time