“Last month, my business hit Rs 2 lakh in revenue,” an excited Harry told me of his achievement. I was surprised to witness his growth. He was struggling to make Rs 30,000 a month when we met last year. He had contacted me after reading one of my articles on YourStory - 100 ideas to make money online without any investment.
I could not believe his story - he was brought up in a slum, and wanted to grow his online business without even having a proper education. I am sharing his journey from living in a slum to his introduction to the digital world.
Harry’s father shifted to Delhi’s Vaishali slums in 1996 from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, and Harry grew like every other slum kid. Belonging to a shepherd family, his father kept cattle, but did not earn enough by selling milk for the survival of eight family members.
His father started working as a blacksmith (luhar).
Harry helped his father blowing air in the furnace (bhatti) when he was only seven years old. He says his family doesn’t even remember his date of birth. His parents did not send him to school because every child is a helping hand to earn a few extra rupees.
A school teacher approached Harry’s father, and told him that the school can offer a scholarship if he sent his children to school. Thus, Harry started receiving Rs 150 per month as scholarship, along with free education. That was a good enough reason for his father to send him to school.
Harry stood first in his exams, and the school promoted him directly to the third standard. A brilliant child, Harry came first in third and fourth standards as well. Looking at his performance, the school decided to again promote him to sixth standard. That year, he could not secure the first position, and came third in his class.
Then the unimaginable happened. His father got very upset with him on his rank, and beat him up with a plastic pipe. That incident made Harry lose all interest in his studies but due to the pressure and fear of his father, he worked hard to stand first in the class. He had lost interest in studies, and wanted to explore something big to do in life.
I feel this story is not of Harry alone. There are so many brilliant children living in the slums of India, and we are losing a lot of talent due to lack of resources and awareness.
When Harry was 13, his elder brother died from a disease called hemophilia. His father was diagnosed with tuberculosis the same year, and his mother started working in a small godown sorting polythene collected by rag-pickers. Harry supported his family by selling paper envelopes made from newspaper.
His mother was diagnosed with cancer while working in the plastic factory. Without sufficient money to eat proper food, and get medicine, how long can a person survive; his mother passed away in 2003 after fighting cancer for six months. His grandfather couldn’t tolerate the grief of the two deaths, and also died the next year.
Harry’s father then stopped his schooling, and sent him to a cycle mechanic to learn repairs. At the cycle shop, his boss (ustadji) would beat him every day, and when Harry refused to go there, his father kicked him out of the house.
Harry was about 15 years old at that time. He had nothing to eat for two days, and slept in a park. A boy from a nearby slum helped him find work in a factory. Harry started earning Rs 1,500 per month and worked for different factories that manufactured soap, biscuits, bread, transformers, and drawing colours.
Basically, he kept changing jobs to earn a little better each time, but all labour jobs were in the range of Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 per month. His sister then helped him find a job as support staff in a computer center, where he touched a computer for the first time in 2005, and was very curious as to what and why people were learning on the ‘TV with a keyboard’.
The computer center became his education center, where he observed students. He learned the basics of the computer without ever interacting with a computer teacher - the way Eklavya learned archery from Dronyacharya.
His duty was to clean the computer center in the morning, serve tea and water, and offer all types of support throughout the day.
One day, the teacher was not around and a student from a new batch was struggling with MS-Word. Harry started helping the student, when the teacher came back. The teacher got angry, and complained about Harry to the owner of the computer center.
Harry was scared of losing his job, but to his surprise, the owner asked his if he could teach computer basics to students from the new batch. The owner tested Harry, and found him capable of teaching.
It was an offer Harry could not refuse – he was getting paid and it enabled him to learn computers. He was getting paid less than regular teachers, but better than a support boy. Soon, Harry was dreaming of getting a job in an MNC when he heard from students that MNC jobs could change one’s life.
He, however, did not have any educational qualification. No one would call him for an interview without educational certificates. He forged school, and college graduation certificates with a wrong date of birth and appeared for interviews saying he was 21 years old when his actual age was around 18.
He did not get a job in any IT company, but got one in a retail company as a cashier and customer service associate. He thought that one day he would be promoted to a position where he could continue his dream of working with computers. He learned leadership skills and communication in his job as a Customer Service Supervisor, and was handling a team of 60 people in 2008. He read a lot of books related to financial freedom, self-development and sales, and excelled in English reading, writing and speaking skills.
Someone told him about Network Marketing scheme, and how it could make you rich. Harry left his job to become rich quickly, but in a few months, he had spent all his savings on recruiting people into the scheme, but could not make any money. He came to a point where he had no money to pay rent for his room, and stayed without food for a few days. He lost all hope, and even attempted suicide.
He surrendered himself and asked help. This is when one of his friends introduced him to a person who was an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioner. He used some psychological techniques to help Harry with his depression. Harry never thought of committing suicide again, and the NLP technique captured his attention.
Full of positive energy, Harry purchased two old computers and started teaching basics of computers. He got 17 students in the first month itself. Harry thus became an entrepreneur and a coach. He also learned NLP, and started doing counseling for individuals, and saved many lives.
I asked Harry again and again is his story was real or fiction. In answer, his eyes spoke of the struggle he went through, and the tough times, and how every tough condition became an opportunity.
Now Harry was working on two businesses - teaching computers, and NLP counselling. He helped every person around him, and kept in touch with the person who helped him come out of depression and taught him NLP.
His coach once asked Harry if he knew someone to help him with his website. Harry took on the challenge himself, and prepared a website following YouTube tutorials. One after another, he took care of everything required to grow the website. In a short time, he learned social media marketing, SEO, YouTube SEO, video editing and managing websites in WordPress.
It became easy for Harry to convert clients for his coach because he already had experience in offline sales and marketing.
Harry’s hunger to learn digital marketing brought him to me. With a little bit of assistance, he established himself as an expert digital marketer for self-help and industry trainers. In just one year, he has taken his business from a few thousand rupees to a monthly income of Rs 2 lakh.
Harry may think Rs 2 lakh is a big amount, but I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The online business market is so huge that anyone can make a good living with the focused work. Today, Harry not only has recurring clients, but also people waiting to avail of his services. He only works with new and struggling trainers, coaches, and healers in the self-development space with the promise of increasing their revenues by 3X through digital marketing. You can take a look at his business here.