Very often, we read stories of people who conquer all the difficulties in life and emerge as heroes. In today’s story, the hero is a strong-willed woman who overcame all the challenges that life threw her way and channeled it right only to become a self-made millionaire.
Meet Kalpana Saroj whose story is no less than a Bollywood movie. From facing discrimination since childhood to owning an empire of $112 million, she is taking her business ventures to new heights and inspiring hundreds of people.
Abusive child marriage
Belonging to the Dalit community in a village called Roperkheda in Maharashtra, Kalpana endured a lot of discrimination as a child on a daily basis, inside and outside her school. She was forbidden to play with other kids and was forced to sit separately. She used to stay with her father, a police constable, and five siblings in a police quarter. Her father would take care of the entire family with his income of Rs 300. But life took a major turn when she turned 12.
Although her father supported her studies, due to constant pressure from his community, he succumbed to the norm and married off Kalpana in a slum in Mumbai, to a man who was 10 years elder to her. Life after marriage was full of challenges. Kalpana was often abused and tortured by her husband and in-laws.
“They would look for excuses to hit me brutally. They would kick and punch me mercilessly and even started me,” tells Kalpana.
After a few months when her father went to meet her, he saw a walking corpse. Horrified by the condition of his daughter, he took her back home.
Realizing the worth of life and money
After coming back to her home, Kalpana wanted to resume her studies and become independent. But she was labeled as a shame to the community and was constantly taunted over her failed marriage. However, she turned a deaf ear to everyone and started learning tailoring skills and started earning. But even then, people did not stop bullying her.
This pushed her into extreme depression where she tried to kill herself by consuming poison. But destiny had other plans. Kalpana was saved miraculously and this incident made her realize how precious her life is. She decided not to give up because of other people and do something to make them understand her worth.
She abandoned her weak, frightened, and helpless self and took control strong and determined as ever. Kalpana committed herself entirely to work.
The tragic incident
She moved to Mumbai with her uncle and started focusing on her tailoring work with him, where she would earn mere Rs 2 per day. She worked sixteen hours a day and started supporting her family with her earnings. But one event changed the course of her life.
Kalpana’s younger sister fell ill and despite all the efforts, she succumbed to her illness. The family could not afford to pay for her treatment. “Didi, I don’t want to die,” said her sister, crying. Kalpana could not forget those words. She realised how important money is to live a healthy life.
The chairperson with no formal degree
Kalpana acquired loans from the government and aided her tailoring business and started another furniture business. She began learning the nitty-gritties of handling business and soon, her business took off. She also payed back her loan. With the help of her growing contacts and entrepreneurial skills, Kalpana successfully established a real estate business.
She also started an NGO where she would guide people from the backward community to get help from government schemes and loans to establish themselves. In 2000, she was appointed the president of the company called kamani Tubes by its workers and was given charge to handle it while it was neck deep in debt and was on a verge of closure.
Although she had no formal degree, she had remarkable business acumen and the thought of hundreds of families being affected by the shutdown of the company made her do what seemed impossible to many. She restructured the company, made strong decisions, fought litigations, and turned around Kamani Tubes into a profit-making company. In 2006, she became the chairperson of the company.
Today, Kalpana is a well-known name in the business industry and is looked upon as an inspiration to many. She continues to give back to the society with her NGO which works for the benefit of students, rural women, and underprivileged people.
Kalpana was honored with the Padma Shri in 2013 by the Government of India in the field of Trade and Industries. It is women like her who reassures our faith in hard work and perseverance and to the fact that no matter what happens in your life you can always turn it around.
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