Even today, 54-year-old Tenzin Negi takes special care of his labourers and their needs. Having worked his way up from a daily wage worker himself, Tenzin knows how difficult life for a worker can actually be.
Tenzin started working as a daily wage worker when he was just 16. However, building roads and earning Rs 3 daily was not enough. Curious, helpful, and hardworking, Tenzin worked his way up. Today, he runs his own construction company worth crores.
Tenzin was born in Khorkhai village, Himachal Pradesh. His parents were Tibetan refugees who worked on daily wage and lived in a makeshift tent with no electricity or water supply. “Life was extremely difficult,” Tenzin recalls.
Tenzin remembers the days of rains and snowfall, and the fear they brought along. His parents would be building roads in risky terrains even during such weather outside. Tenzin recalls:
“Even for such risky work, finding labour work daily was a major struggle. On days my parents didn’t find work, we had to manage without food.”
Turn of fate
Fate took a turn for Tenzin’s parents when the Indian government started building camps for Tibetan refugees. Tenzin’s father was given a piece of farmland in Surguja district in Madhya Pradesh. The government also built houses for his family to help them integrate into local workforce.
Tenzin along with his elder brother and two younger sisters, started going to the local public school, while his parents worked in the field.
Back to Himachal
After living in Surjuga for eight years, Tenzin’s father decided to go back to the Himachal. Coming from an ingenious Himalayan tribe, Tenzin and his family found it hard to settle in central India. “The weather, especially summers, was unbearable,” Tenzin recalls.
This time they settled in Shimla. Tenzin, now 16, started accompanying his parents in their resumed road construction work. Tenzin’s work included levelling of roads, carrying stone and sand, and pouring tar during construction. Recalling those days, Tenzin says:
“Although I was 16 years old, I was given only half the wage adults earned. My parents made Rs 6 daily, while I was working equally hard and making Rs 3 per day.”
Slow and steady
After years of hard work, thanks to his education, Tenzin was found suitable for a supervisor’s job in Shimla Municipal Corporation. He jumped to the opportunity. As a supervisor Tenzin had to manage 10-15 labourers, ensure they were adequately distributed and that they were paid on time.
Working as a supervisor, Tenzin observed how a contractor worked. He realised that he can take contracts himself and work on them. “My parents were growing old. Working as a supervisor, I could have never lifted my family out of poverty. I decided to become a contractor,” Tenzin says.
Tenzin’s first contract was of Rs 600. The bid was to perform ‘surface dressing’ on a road that was being built. Tenzin worked hard to deliver good results, and soon, he started receiving more contracts.
Although Tenzin was taking up projects, he was not registered as a contractor. This meant that the projects he received were sub-contracted to him, yielding lower profit and infrequent payment for all the hard work he was putting in. Tenzin recalls:
“The contractors used to receive their cheques on time from the government, but they delayed our payments. This is when I decided to register as a contractor myself and start my own business.”
Rags to riches
Tenzin started taking small contracts, but with his reputation in quality and timeliness, he was soon a favourite among locals. Sub-contracts and labourers liked to work for him as well, as he was fair towards them.
Slowly, as his own capacity grew over time, Tenzin started taking bigger projects. In November 2000, he started a company called ‘Tenzin Construction Private Limited’.
His company soon started undertaking projects from the Himachal Pradesh government in electrical, housing, education, and healthcare sectors. He also worked on private construction projects. Tenzin recalls:
“We built everything. From houses, to shops, restaurants, shopping complexes, hospitals, and schools. Our timeliness, quality, and sincerity is what brought us so far.”
What sets Tenzin apart is his willingness to give back to the society. Well-known in Shimla for his charitable work, Tenzin has built a hospital with 50 beds where the poor can receive free and affordable healthcare. The hospital was meant to be Tenzin’s house. However, after a social worker shared with him the need for an affordable hospital, Tenzin decided to use the building as a hospital instead.
At 54, Tenzin does not feel any tired. A happily married man with two sons and two daughters, Tenzin today owns a construction company with an annual turnover of Rs 25-40 crore. “I never thought I would come this far. I only worked hard and with honesty with whatever I was doing. I guess, that is the only way to attain success with satisfaction,” Tenzin says.