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6 Indian entrepreneur who started with nothing

We are sharing with you the success stories of 6 Indian entrepreneurs who successfully started with almost nothing. These stories hopefully will inspire you through your start-up journey and will keep you motivated.

Patricia Narayan

source: Yo!Success

Starting from 50 paisa to Rs. 2 lakh per day, from travelling in cycle rickshaw to owning a car, from just 2 people to 200 employees now working for her, Patricia has battled against all the odds and faced all the challenges. Slowly she has flourished and established herself as a successful entrepreneur.

After years of battling an abusive and an addict husband, she decided to work. To support her two children, she started making pickles, jams and squashes. Soon, she set up a handcart at Chennai’s famous Marina Beach and started selling fritters, cutlets, samosas, fresh juice, coffee and tea. On her first day, she could only sell one cup of coffee for fifty paise. That was a start of a rewarding journey.

By the late 80s, she had branched out into running canteens for offices. In 1998, she became director of the Sangeetha Group’s Nelson Manickam Road restaurant. In 2006, Patricia founded Sandheepha, which runs a standalone restaurant and caters to the food courts for various big corporates.

Patricia’s business is dedicated to her daughter Pradheepha Sandra who died in a car crash in 2004, in what she describes as the biggest tragedy of her life. Today, she operates an ambulance service from Acharapakkam, the spot where Pradheepha died.

(Winner of this year’s ‘FICCI Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’ award is amazing. ) She started her career 30 years ago as an entrepreneur, selling eateries from a mobile cart on the Marina beach amidst all odds — battling a failed marriage, coping with her husband, a multiple addict, and taking care of two kids.

Today, she has overcome the hurdles and owns a chain of restaurants.

” I started my business with just two people. Now, there are 200 people working for me in my restaurants. My lifestyle has changed too. From travelling in a cycle rickshaw, I moved to auto rickshaws and now I have my own car. From 50 paise a day, my revenue has gone up to Rs 2 lakh a day.

The ‘Ficci entrepreneur of the year’ award is the culmination of all the hard work I have put in over the last 30 years. It came as a surprise as this is the first time I have received an award.

Till now, I had no time to think of what I was doing. But the award made me look back and relive the days that passed by. Now, my ambition is to build my Sandeepha brand.”

Advice to young entrepreneurs

Do not ever compromise on quality. Never lose your self-confidence. Believe in yourself and the product you are making. Third, always stick to what you know. When you employ people, you should know what you ask them to do.

Dhiru Bhai Ambani


Dhirubhai Ambani was one of the sons of Hirachand Gordhanbhai Ambani, a village school teacher belonging to the Modh Baniya community and Jamnaben Ambani and was born in Chorwad, Junagadh district, Gujarat[2] on 28 December 1932.[3] He did his studies from Bahadur Khanji school. In his youth, he joined the protests against the Nawab of Junagarh and organized many actions against the Nawab's plans to join Pakistan after independence.

In 1948, he left for the Port of Aden, Yemen to work for A. Besse and Co. along with his brother Ramnikbhai. He later came to sell shell and Burmah oil products for the company. There is a famous story about how he once made a lot of money by melting the silver bullion and selling it as pure silver because he knew that the value of pure silver was much higher than the bullion thus was a precursor to his financial wizardry and acumen.

His friends described him as someone who was affable yet ambitious, cheerful yet had a 'dark side' because of his extreme ambition and risk taking. In Aden, his first son, Mukesh was born to him in 19 April 1957. Another son, Anil, was born two years later in 1959.

He left Aden in 1958 to try his hand at his own business in India in the textiles market.[4]

India’s largest private sector company. Created an equity cult in the Indian capital market. Reliance is the first Indian company to feature in Forbes 500 list.

Dhirubhai Ambani was the most enterprising Indian entrepreneur. His life journey is reminiscent of the rags to riches story. He is remembered as the one who rewrote Indian corporate history and built a truly global corporate group.

Dhirubhai Ambani alias Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani was born on December 28, 1932, at Chorwad, Gujarat, into a Modh family. His father was a school teacher. Dhirubhai Ambani started his entrepreneurial career by selling “bhajias” to pilgrims in Mount Girnar over the weekends.

After doing his matriculation at the age of 16, Dhirubhai moved to Aden, Yemen. He worked there as a gas-station attendant, and as a clerk in an oil company. He returned to India in 1958 with Rs 50,000 and set up a textile trading company.

In 1992, Reliance became the first Indian company to raise money in global markets, its high credit-taking in international markets limited only by India’s sovereign rating. Reliance also became the first Indian company to feature in Forbes 500 list.

Dhirubhai Ambani was named the Indian Entrepreneur of the 20th Century by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). A poll conducted by The Times of India in 2000 voted him “greatest creator of wealth in the century”.

Dhirubhai Ambani died on July 6, 2002, at Mumbai.

Must Watch Guru Movie to know more about Dhirubhai Ambani – Tycoon of India From Rags to Riches.

Karsanbhai Patel

source: Nirma University

Karsanbhai Khodidas Patel (born 1945, Ruppur, Mehsana, Gujarat) is an Indian billionaire businessman, industrialist and founder of the Rs. 52,500 crore Nirma group a company with major business interests in cements, detergents, soaps and cosmetics. As of 2021 Forbes has listed his net worth at US$ 3.9 billion.[2] He has interests in education, and founded leading pharmacy college (Nirma Institute of Pharmacy)and a leading engineering college/ university .

The ‘Nirma’ success story of how an Indian Entrepreneur took on the big MNCs and rewrote the rules of business :

It was in 1969 that Dr. Karsanbhai Patel started Nirma and went on to create a whole new segment in the Indian domestic detergent market. During that time the domestic detergent market only had the premium segment and there were very few companies , mainly the MNCs, which were into this business.

Karsanbhai Patel used to make detergent powder in the backyard of his house in Ahmedabad and then carry out door to door selling of his hand made product. He gave a money back guarantee with every pack that was sold. Karsanbhai Patel managed to offer his detergent powder for Rs. 3 per kg when the cheapest detergent at that time was Rs.13 per kg and so he was able to successfully target the middle and lower middle income segment.

Sabki Pasand Nirma!

Nirma became a huge success and all this was a result of Karsanbhai Patel’s entrepreneurial skills.

The best case of – Give your consumer what he wants, when he wants, where he wants and at the price he wants, selling will be done quite automatically. This is the marketing ‘mantra’ of Nirma.

The company that was started in 1969 with just one man who used to deliver his product from one house to the other, today employs around 14 thousand people and has a turnover of more than $ 500 million. In 2004 Nirma’s annual sales were as high as 800000 tones. According to Forbes in 2005 Karsanbhai Patel’s net worth was $640 million and it’s going to touch the $1000 million mark soon.

Prem Ganapathy (The Dosawala)

source: Techpluto

Prem Ganapathy is an Indian entrepreneur and businessman. He is the founder of the restaurant chain Dosa plaza.[2] Starting with meager investment, he expanded Dosa plaza into a restaurant chain with 72 outlets in India, New Zealand, Oman, and UAE.

Ganapathy was born in Nagalapuram in Thoothukudi district in the state of Tamil Nadu. He had seven siblings.[4] Ganapathy completed class X after which he left for Madras (now Chennai) in search of a job. He did multiple jobs in Chennai before running away to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1990. Ganapathy was stranded in Bombay with no money and no knowledge of the local language. He started working in a bakery with the help of a Tamil family.

In 1992, Ganapathy started his own food business, selling idlis and dosas in a handcart opposite the Vashi railway station.[4] In 1997, he rented a shop and started experimenting with various varieties of dosas. In 2003, he opened his first outlet in a mall in Center One Mall at Vashi.[1] As of 2012, Dosa plaza has 45 outlets in 4 countries serving more than 100 varieties of dosas

Prem Ganapathy, was stranded at the bandra station, when the person accompanying him left him and ran away. Prem had no local acquaintances or knowledge of the language. Out of pity, a fellow Tamilian guided him to a temple and appealed worshipers to contribute money for his return ticket to Chennai.

Prem refused to go back and decided to work in Mumbai and started cleaning utensils in a restaurant. He appealed to his owner, to let him become a waiter as he was class 10 pass. The owner refused, because of regional politics and Prem bided his time till a neighbor hood dosa restaurant opened and offered him a job from a dishwasher to a tea boy.

Prem became a huge hit with the customers because of his excellent customer service, initiatives and relationship and brought business Rs. 1000 daily which was almost 3 times as compared to other tea boys. The life was good.

A customer made him an offer. He was planning to open a tea shop in Vashi in Mumbai. He wanted Prem to be his 50 – 50 partner where the owner would invest the money while Prem would run the shop. The shop started doing brisk business when the owner became greedy. It hurt him to share 50 % of the profit with Prem and he threw Prem out replacing him with an employee.

Prem was made of a different material and he was never going to be defeated. He took a small loan from his uncle and with his brother, opened his own tea stall. Unfortunately the neighbourhood residents objected. He then started a hand cart but that also did not work out. He found a spot and set up a south Indian stall. He did not know a thing about dosas and idli but learnt by observation, trial and error.

The dosa stall was a huge hit and flourished during the 5 years from 1992-1997. But why was the tiny dosa stall was so successful in spite of competition from ubiquitous eateries prevalent in Mumbai. According to Prem it was its hygiene, proper appearances of the waiters and fresh ingredients which stood out as a difference.

He saved a couple of lakhs of Rupees and instead of heading home he took the biggest risk of his life and opened a new shop near Vashi station and named it as Dosa Plaza. His Chinese plaza next to the Dosa Plaza flopped miserably and was shut down in 3 months. Undaunted, Prem realized some lessons from it. He applied those lessons in making Chinese cuisine in his dosas which worked very well.

He got passionate and invented a variety of dosas with Chinese style like American Chopsuey, Schezwan Dosa, Paneer chilly, Spring roll dosa etc. The 108 types of Dosas in his menu gets him a lot of publicity.

A chance encounter with a customer who was part of the team setting up a food court in a mall in New Bombay advised him to take a stall at the food court and again Prem was ready and willing to grow and expand. His vision was to grow by better offerings and better customer service. He also went to ad agencies to create the brand identity including the logo, brands, menu card, waiters dress etc.

He started getting a lot of offers for franchising and had to find out the meaning of franchising and its modus operandi. Dosa Plaza currently has 26 outlets and 5 of them are company owned. It has 150 employees and a turnover of 5 crore. All the branches are connected and networked and there are training managers and proper manuals to maintain standard and uniform product and services.

Ramesh Babu

source: SugarMint

Ramesh Babu, a 'Billionaire Barber' grew up on one meal a day. After the death of Ramesh Babu's father, his mother could not run the barbershop and she rented it out for Rs 5 a day.

Ramesh Babu did odd jobs during his childhood to support his mother to make a little extra money. Ramesh Babu started part-time newspaper delivery work, milk home delivery and whatever else was convenient at age of 13 to support his family. By doing different kinds of odd jobs, Ramesh Babu continued his studies while supporting his family and finished his tenth standard study.

The barber who owns a Rolls Royce

Ramesh Babu, the barber who became a millionaire, did exactly this when he was shaping his dazzling destiny. Stories of personal perseverance, the ones where heroes overcome severe obstacles and achieve dizzying heights of success, have been around since the beginning of time but they never get old. They inspire us and inflame our passions, making us believe we too can follow suit.

Ramesh Babu bought a Maruti Van with his meagre savings in 1994. By 2004, he had a fledgling car rental business with seven regular cars. In 2014 he has a fleet of 200 cars. What is even more extraordinary is the 75 luxury cars on the fleet- a range of Mercedes, BMW’s, Audi’s, five and ten seater luxury vans and, his ultimate pride, a Rolls Royce.

Building a successful business:

From 1994 onward I seriously got into the car rental business. The first company I rented it out to was Intel because that’s where Nandini akka was working and she helped arrange it. Gradually, I started adding more cars to the fleet. Till 2004, I only had about five to six cars. I was focused on getting the saloon business off the ground, so this was not my priority. The business was not doing well as the competition at this level was intense. Everyone had small cars. I thought of getting into luxury cars because that is something that no one else was doing.

On Taking Risks:

When I was buying my first luxury car, in 2004, everyone told me that I was making a big mistake. Forty lakhs in 2004 for a car, even a luxury car, was a very big deal. I was extremely apprehensive, but simply had to take the chance. I told myself that I would sell off the car if worse came to worst. Fortunately for me, the risk paid off remarkably. No other car rental service had luxury cars of this stature. There were ones who had purchased second hand models and the conditions of those cars were far from pristine. I was the first person in Bangalore to invest in a brand new luxury car and it did very well.

Naina Lal Kidwai

source: MBA Rendezvous

Naina Lal Kidwai (born 1957) is an Indian banker, chartered accountant and business executive. She was formerly a Group General Manager and the Country Head of HSBC India. She is also a former President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

She is presently the Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC India.

Naina has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Delhi university and an MBA from Harvard Business school. In fact, Kidwai was the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School.

She started her career with ANZ Grindlays . Presently, she is also serving as a non-executive director on the board of Nestle SA. Kidwai is also global advisor at Harvard Business school.

Indian government conferred Padma Shri award on Naina for her contributions in the field of Trade and Industry.

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