The festive season is upon us and the city seems to adorn every variegated shade of the rainbow. The sweet shops are making the best of their all year round sales and the local firecracker sellers are already setting up shop in the market places. Diwali today is an excuse to dress your best, eat guilt-free and sanction sweet indulgence in throwing the best parties of the season. But looking back at what this festival of light truly represents, we have to travel back in time through the realms of Hindu mythology, which celebrates the victory of good over evil or light over darkness, as symbolised by Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after defeating Lord Ravana of Sri Lanka.
Just like it took twelve years of almost ascetic living for Rama, along with Sita and Lakshmana, to fight through the darkness of the forest and return to the basking light of Ayodhya, there are some inimitable individuals who have battled their own darkness, only to emerge the brightest in the light of life.
This Diwali, we celebrate the soul-stirring stories of their personal triumphs and applaud them for their sparkling vision that penetrated through the visible darkness of their individual journeys.
“Show compassion and make people rich. Include people in your life and remove loneliness, and lastly, do something good; it will come back to you.”
This 24-year old CEO of Hyderabad-based Bollant Industries, a company that is worth over 50 crores, was born blind into a society that had once dismissed him ‘a waste’. With a vision that went beyond the use of eyes, Srikanth’s mind, will and ambition led him to battle through a plethora of closed doors and forced isolations. Realising the intolerance of a largely regressive society in providing opportunities to the disabled, he set forth to create and establish a company which employs uneducated and disabled employees to manufacture eco-friendly, disposable consumer packaging solutions. Angel investor Ravi Mantha has made it his personal mission to “take the company to IPO”. The first international blind student to pass through the prestigious gates of MIT, Srikanth went from being the disadvantaged son of a farmer who was denied access to science classes in high school to owning four production plants, one each in Hubli (Karnataka) and Nizamabad (Telangana), and two in Hyderabad (Telangana). And he’s just begun.
“I refused to crawl. Every time I fell, I took it as a test of perseverance. That way, it is easier to try again.”
With broken bones and protruding intestines, Major Devender Singh was proclaimed dead after incurring a bomb-blast at the Indo-Pak border during the Kargil War of ’99. Sent to a makeshift mortuary, Singh’s unconscious strength to survive moved his listless body enough for another doctor to realise that he was indeed alive. After a series of historic surgeries and therapy sessions, Singh was fixed with a prosthetic leg and, due to complications, had a part of his intestines taken out. But the one thing the blast couldn’t destroy was his mind. Singh woke up after his surgery to experience a new zeal for life and a passion for running. Soon after, he began with a few sprints and after being fixed a more advanced and sturdy prosthetic leg, he began to laugh at his fate and stated running in marathons. It has been 16 years since, and he has acquired the revered name of ‘The Indian Blade Runner’, which he proudly flouts as he runs by.
“Work hard. Be Humble. Anything else is just luck.”
This is the story of the millionaire barber. Born into a fairly destitute family which came under his responsibility at an extremely premature age, Ramesh Babu realised that it was either throwing caution to the wind and taking a chance upon his fate or spending a life skittering around the poverty line. Cutting short his education, his primary measure to make ends meet was to continue running his father’s tiny saloon business while also taking on odd jobs for the extra household money. It was when pride made him buy a Maruti van to outcompete his uncle, for which he incurred a massive loan, that he got the idea to rent out the car and take steps towards the car rental business. Today he owns one of the most successful luxury car rental services and has even become a TED speaker.
“I aim to climb an 8a+ within the next year, become a sponsored athlete, represent the para-climbing community, whilst helping to gain further support and exposure for Indian parathletes in adventure sport.”
Thus said the famous Mani Rogers, a man who didn’t let even a disease like polio come in the way of him becoming India’s first world para-climbing champion. Mani always had a love for climbing over academics. As a young teenager, he would climb anywhere he could – including the rocks of Ramanagara, Hampi and Badami, or even the artificial walls of Kanteerava Stadium. Refusing to pay heed to his disabled right leg, he pushed his own boundaries, first training himself by observing professional climbers and then mastering the sport enough to become a trainer himself. Today, he is proud to have represented India in the World Para-climbing Championship in 2012, where he won Gold, and also in the World Para-climbing Championship in 2013, where he won Silver, twice in both France and London.
“Entrepreneurship has given me freedom even in the toughest of times. I don’t think there is anything else I would want to do despite all the stress and struggles.”
Dropping out of college to pursue his bristling passion to become an entrepreneur, which led to severed family ties and a whole lot of one-meal days, Dinup is a prime example of a man who refuses to take no for an answer. Trying his luck at selling T-shirts online as his first gig, he soon realised that the only way to get money into the empty coffers was by delivering them himself. Known as the neighbourhood delivery boy in Kerala, Dilip went through several years of trying his hand at the occasional odd job when, in 2013, serendipity led him to scout the online space, only to discover that there was none reserved for online astrology. He thus launched his company ‘MonkVyasa’ with old-time friend and classmate Sarath KS, after securing ties with professional astrologers and having them on-board. He received mentorship and seed funding from Sanjay Vijaykumar, Chairman of Kochi-based startup incubator Startup Village. The company aims to reach transactions of $200 million in the next two years.
“I believe in the power of the mind. What we think, we become.”
Here is the story of a man who once had to resort to the streets for alms with his pujari father as a child. Shouldering the responsibility of becoming the man of the house following his father’s passing, Renuka tried his hand at the most meagre of jobs to help support his family. From working as a helper at factories to working at trading companies, Renuka was always quick to pick up on how each worked and had a few false starts later, when he tried to build a company that sold covers for suitcases and vanity bags. After that crashed, he secured a job as a security guard, but not one to back down, he decided to try his hand at driving – first local, then outstation. He transported dead bodies single-handedly, and drove travellers around for trips and pilgrimages alike. From there, he went on to save enough money to open a small travel company, and this marked his turning point –because fortune finally decided to descend on his head and propel him forwards. Today, he is the proud owner of ‘Pravasi Cabs’ in Bengaluru, which has a rough turnover of Rs 30 crores, and once he crosses the Rs 100 crore mark, he is determined to go for an IPO.
These are the stories of some individuals who lit up the pathway to their own lives and journeys, and we couldn’t be more excited to share their inspiring stories with you on this special occasion. Happy Diwali, from them and us, to you!