Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. But is there a limit to how many times can one take on life’s harsh realities? Well, there is none for Srikanth Bolla, not even his blindness. This 24-year-old focused on his strengths and shut every mouth who once discouraged him.
He was born in a bed of thorns in a small village in Andhra Pradesh. His parents were farmers and were cursed for giving birth to a blind boy. The villagers kept telling them, “He cannot see. Let him die” but his grandmother shut their mouth and kept faith in the boy who needed support in performing routine tasks.
Srikanth had a lonely childhood where he constantly felt alienated from other children. Imagine a child wanting to go out in the field and play with other children but they treat him like he does not exist. Looking at his misery his uncle suggested his parents to send him to a blind school in Hyderabad. So Srikanth was sent 400 km away from home in a new environment where he suffered severe home sickness. Unable to adjust in the new environment he even tried to run away from the school ignoring his safety. Upon finding out his uncle asked him gently, “What kind of life will you have at home?”
It was a moment when everything changed for him. He made a promise to himself that he will get excellent in everything that comes his way. “I worked hard, and I never looked back.” He topped STD 10 board exams in his school. He was extremely interested in science and wanted to study it further but was forced to go for arts. Indian school system does not allow visually-impaired to study science. But as always, Srikanth couldn’t see obstacles. He filed a case and fought until the law changed for all Indian students. He scored 98% in his board exams.
It was probably Srikanth’s fate that nothing would come easy to him. He wanted to pursue engineering from the top institute of the country but was rejected by the IITs for his blindness. Unfazed by the rejection he applied to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and became the first ever international blind student to study in MIT.
After finishing his studies he decided to overlook offers from corporate sector and returned India. He founded Samanvai, a non-profit organization in Hyderabad, to provide individualized, need-based and goal-oriented support services to students with multiple disabilities.
By now Srikanth had proved the world that will power of a person is good enough to sail through every darkness. Next he decided to take on the issue of unemployability of the disabled. In 2012, Srikanth started Bollant Industries Pvt. Ltd. to provide livelihood opportunities to the physically challenged.
The company manufactures eco-friendly products such as areca leaf plates, cups, trays, and dinnerware, betel plates, and disposable plates, spoons and cups. Later it also added adhesives and printing inks/printing products to their portfolios. So impressed was angel investor Ravi Mantha with Srikanth’s business model and vision, that he not only invested in the company but is also Srikanth’s mentor. Today, Bollant employs over 150 disabled individuals and has five manufacturing units. Its annual sales have already crossed Rs 70 million. Srikanth also got funded by Ratan Tata and received the best entrepreneur award for 2016.
Srikanth says, “There was a time when the whole world mocked me and told me I can never do anything. My achievements is the answer to all of them.” He says that if you want to emerge as a winner in life’s battle you must hold on to patience in the worst phase of your life and success will come to you.
Srikanth has a long list of achievements under his name at the age of only 24. So what’s next? He chuckles and says, “My lifetime ambition is to become the President of India.”