Rags to riches: Inspiring tales of Indian entrepreneurs

Get inspired by the incredible journeys of Indian entrepreneurs, who created successful businesses despite coming from humble backgrounds.

Rags to riches: Inspiring tales of Indian entrepreneurs

Monday May 29, 2023,

3 min Read

From Dhirubhai Ambani to Karsanbhai Patel, India has several stories of entrepreneurs going from penniless to millionaires. Their journeys serve as beacons of hope for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Here are four such stories:

1. The man who made Reliance Industries: Dhirubhai Ambani

Born in the town of Chorwad, Gujarat, the son of a schoolteacher, Dhirubhai started his entrepreneurial journey by selling bhajia (fritters). After graduating from college at the age of 16, he moved to Aden, Yemen, where he worked as a petrol station clerk and an oil company clerk.

He returned to India in 1958 with Rs 50,000 and established a textile trading company. In 1992, Reliance Industries became the first Indian company to raise capital in the global market. Reliance is the first Indian company to make the Forbes 500 list.

Dhirubhai Ambani has been named Indian Entrepreneur of the 20th Century by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).  

2. Washing powder Nirma's creator, Karsanbhai Patel

Karsanbhai Patel made detergent in the backyard of his Ahmedabad home and sold it door-to-door. He had a money-back guarantee on every pack sold. He sold washing powder Nirmaat Rs 13 rupees per kg in 1969. This allowed him to deal with the middle and lower-middle-income brackets successfully.

Founded in 1969 by his one man, the company now employs about 18,000 people and has over Rs 7000 crore in sales.

3. CEO of Kamani Tubes, Kalpana Saroj

Kalpana Saroj is considered India's original 'Slumdog Millionaire'. Born into a Dalit family, she faced several challenges since childhood. Saroj was married at the age of 12 and was mentally and physically abused by her step-parents.

After being ostracised by the villagers, she attempted to commit suicide. At the age of 16, she returned to Mumbai to live with her uncle. She started working in a clothing factory to support her family. She then became a tailor by taking advantage of government loans.

Eventually, she opened a furniture store followed by a real estate company. Saroj served on the board of directors of Kamani Tubes when it went into liquidation in 2001. Saroj worked towards restructuring the company after its acquisition and bringing it to profitability.

Saroj was awarded the Padma Shri Award in 2013 in the Trade and Industry category. The Government of India appointed her as a director of Bhartiya Mahila Bank, which caters primarily to women. 

4. Ramesh Babu, the Rolls-Royce Barber

A hairdresser, Babu in 1994 bought a Maruti car with his savings.

By 2004, he had started a car rental business owning seven cars. In 2014, he held 200 cars. Today, he owns 75 luxury cars, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, 5- and 10-seater luxury vans, and his most incredible pride, a Rolls-Royce. He says he entered the world of luxury rental cars because no one else had.

These are just a few inspiring stories of Indian startup founders who have changed lives and shaped the business landscape. Their report emphasizes the importance of resilience, perseverance, and a never-give-up attitude.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti