“Graduation complete karna toh must hai.” How many times have we heard this from a nosy relative or family friend? We grow up absorbing a bizarre idea that their is no ladder to success without a having a degree.
However, the reality is simpler than that. Success has no rules. You can have an average career despite a great degree, or you can skip college and still be living the dream.
The world believes it can either create a university that focuses on entrepreneurship, or force potential entrepreneurs into traditional academia. But the good thing is, time and again, there comes someone who smashes the glass ceiling.
We present eight such Indian entrepreneurs who didn’t have a formal college degree but today, they have set high standards for the upcoming breed.
1. Ramesh Babu
Image Credit – Deccan Chronicles
Ramesh Babu was born into a poor family. His father was a barber but he passed away when Ramesh was only 7-year-old. To make ends meet, his mother started working as a maid. But that was not enough to fetch a square meal for him and his siblings. So he started working in high school to keep his family afloat.
With his earnings, in 1993, Ramesh bought a second-hand Maruti van. While carrying on with his profession as a barber, he started renting out the car for additional income.
By 2004, he had about six cars. He realized that his car rental business needed to pep up for the competition. Again, he took a risk and bought a car worth Rs 40 lakh (at that time). The risk paid off spectacularly, as no other rental service had such an expensive car in their fleet.
Today, Ramesh owns a caravan of Rolls Royces, Mercedes, BMWs, Audis making it nearly 300 cars. He proved with vision and persistence are more important than flaunting a degree and being a part of mediocrity.
2. Kailash Katkar
Kailash grew up in slums of Pune where his father worked as an industrial labor. The disinterest in studies and need to earn for the family led to Kailash dropping out of school after STD 10. He learnt to repair radio and calculator focussing on gaining technical expertise.
When he became adept in the skill, he started his own calculator repair shop, in 1990. Times changed and he shifted to printers and computers repair. Then came the talent of his younger brother, and together they ventured into software repair, or as we call it developing anti-virus programmes.
Today, globally-known brand Quick Heal has more than 1,700 employees, and over 17 million customers across 110+ countries.
3. Shahnaz Husain
She was born into a conservative family. Given she didn’t have much freedom, Shahnaz had to bow down to traditions and was married at the tender age of 15. She became a mother by the time she was 16. Her life seemed to travel at a fast pace with no control over it. This is when she started developing an innate sense of interest in beauty products.
The turning point came when she went to Teheran along with her husband. To while away her time, Shahnaz joined classes to learn about Ayurveda which introduced her to harmful effects of chemicals on human body, and alternative cosmetics.
In 1977, she established her first beauty salon in India which were based on Ayurveda. The dward industry boomed and she ushered an era of herbal cosmetics. Her products made way to leading global stores such as Blooming Dales in New York, Harrods and Selfridges in London, Seibu in Japan, Galleries Lafayette in Paris, and La Rinaeccente in Milan.
In the year 2002, her company touched $100 million mark. There hardly anyone now who needs an introduction to her.
4. Pallav Nadhani
The idea behind FusionCharts was born in 2001. It was when 16-year-old Pallav found himself dissatisfied with Microsoft Excel’s charting capabilities. He was using the program to complete high school class assignments but felt there was a huge scope for improvement in the software. So he went ahead and designed his own software which gained echoing popularity.
In 2009, Pallav was included in the NASSCOM EMERGE 50 Leaders because of his product’s success in globally establishing its data visualization software. In the same year. FusionCharts in 2010 was named as one of the 15 companies likely to become the next Infosys.
FusionCharts’ client list, with customers across 118 countries and numerous business sectors, has drawn significant attention to the company. The company was placed squarely on the global platform following its 2010 selection by US President Barack Obama to design the digital dashboards for the federal administration, the Federal IT Dashboard. FusionCharts was the first Indian start-up to gain the attention of the Obama administration.
5. Azhar Iqubal
Fed up of cluttered news available online, Azhar Iqubal, along with his IIT, Delhi classmate Anunay Pandey and Deepit Purkayastha, created a Facebook page called News in Shorts, on March 23, 2013.
It contained summaries of news items with links to the original stories, thus quickly generating the interest from readers. Today their app, now called Inshorts, delivers 60-word summaries of the day’s news to about 3 million subscribers, every day.
In 2015, Inshorts raised a total of $24 million in two funding rounds, both led by Tiger Global. Flipkart co-founders Sachin and Binny Bansal are also investors in the venture.
6. Ritesh Agarwal
This college dropout is as interesting as his idea. Born into a humble family in Cuttack, Odisha, he loved to explore places. Once when he was travelling, he discovered that there was problem in getting good rooms with contemporary facilities at affordable rates.
At just 17, he invented Oravel Travels, which later branched out to become OYO Rooms. Later on, he launched OYO to eradicate the problem of the availability of the budget rooms in hotels. He has been named among the top 50 entrepreneurs by the TATA first dot awards in 2013.
He has been named one of the 8 hottest teenage start-up founders in the world by BusinessInsider, in the year 2013. He became the world’s youngest CEO at 17.
7. Kalpana Saroj
She was married at the age of 12 and was set to spend the rest of her life in a Mumbai slum with her husband’s family. When she thought she had a dream-come-true of belonging somewhere, she was abused by the hands of her in-laws. Somehow, his father came to know about it and rescued her from there.
Kalpana left her husband and returned to her village to live with her parents. She attempted suicide after being ostracised by the villagers. At the age of 16, she moved back to Mumbai to live with her uncle. There she started working in a garment factory to support her family. Using government loans for scheduled caste people, she successfully started a tailoring business and then a furniture store.
She started KS Film Production and produced first movie which was dubbed in English, Telgu and Hindi Languages. She built up a successful real estate business, and was known for her contacts and entrepreneurial skills. She was on the board of Kamani Tubes when it went into liquidation in 2001, and after taking over the company, she restructured it and brought it back to profit. According to her own estimates, she has personal assets worth $112 million.
8. Ankit Oberoi
“You don’t have to go to college to learn something – Internet can teach you better.” A motto that Ankit believed in. He dropped out from Maharaja Agrasen College in the first semester because he found it was a waste of time.
Since then, owing to his coding acumen, Ankit has been launching internet start-ups for nearly a decade now. Like many entrepreneurs, Ankit wears many hats. He describes himself as a programmer, online marketer, webmaster and growth hacker.
His current venture, AdPushup is an a/b testing tool for web publishers. His fascination with internet made him the founder of Tamranda Web Solution which provided web hosting, domain registration and more. He has also served as director at Innobuzz before starting up AdPushup.
The above mentioned dropouts struck gold despite a college degree but this post is not directing you towards the same route. This is to fill you with confidence even and especially when you are swimming upstream.
If you have more names for this list, comment below. Tag your friends and share the post.