“I believed I was born to create something. My dad was a civil worker and limited means meant that education took a back seat. For me, education was the only way out of my chawl and a life of poverty. So since the age of 13, I started selling vegetables on the road. I used that money to pay for my school fees.
In Diwali, my brothers and I sold crackers, which paid for my junior college… it was the only way for me to study! I’d go to college until 12 pm and then rush to my shop to work until the end of the day. I would study late into the night to make sure all my assignments were done.
I was 27 when I started a workshop that made electrical parts. That year, remote controls were introduced and orders rushed in. Our workshop was doing so well! Within 2 years, I bought 2 houses. I thought this was it, everything I had worked hard for–I was being rewarded for it!
Until 2005, when Chinese companies started selling Rs 1200 remotes at Rs 600! It was as if a dam had exploded. Everything I built was drowning and I had no idea what to save. I was so attached to my company that I didn’t want to let go. I tried hard and kept hoping it would get better. But the losses and debts kept increasing.
I had to shut my company and sell one of my houses to cover up for the losses. I was so lost, I didn’t know what to do. I felt like a disappointment to everyone. For those few months, my daughter ran the household with her salary. My wife and daughter were my rocks. But I felt empty–like I was of no value. I couldn’t come up with any solutions to the problems my mind kept creating. I had worked relentlessly since I was 13, I questioned what it was all for.
One day, I was at the station when I struck a conversation with a vegetable vendor. He told me how it was so expensive and tough to refill a gas light–he spent half his income on it! What struck me was that I could actually help out! A light bulb went on in my head. I spent the next 20 days making a battery powered light from spare parts. It was portable and cheap. I introduced it to the vendors and it was a hit! Within no time, I sold 2000 of them and was back in business!
It helped me regain my grit and believe in myself again. I thought I’d lost my identity when I lost my factory–I wasn’t the ‘engineer saheb’ anymore. But little did I know, I could find my new identity as the ‘Battery wale kaka.’ But more than anything, life really came around in full circle for me–from selling vegetables on the street to helping these vendors out decades later…it’s been one hell of a ride!”
“I believed I was born to create something. My dad was a civil worker and limited means meant that education took a back…
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