Kalpana Saroj`is an Indian entrepreneur born in Roperkheda village in`Maharashtra,`India. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Kamani Tubes`in`Mumbai,`India. Described as the original "slumdog millionaire", she bought the distressed assets of Kamani Tubes Company and successfully steered the company back to profits.
Kalpana Saroj was married at the age of 12 and lived in a slum in Mumbai with her husband's family. After suffering physical abuse at the hands of her husband's family members, she was rescued by her father, left her husband and returned to her village to live with her parents. She attempted suicide after being ostracized by the villagers. At the age of 16, she moved back to Mumbai to live with her uncle. She started working in a garment factory to support her family. Her mother had encouraged her to learn stitching. This is when she first got inclined towards entrepreneurship. She could earn Rs. 10 by stitching a blouse. She thought that if she could stitch four blouses a day, she could make Rs. 40` which would amount to about Rs. 1,000 a month. She took a loan of Rs. 50,000, invested in a sewing machine and a few other things to set up my first venture, which was a boutique business.
When she was in Mumbai, she closely observed the unemployment scenario and noticed how it was linked to crime. At 16, she started working with unemployed people in her area and tried to facilitate a better future for them through an NGO. Once she asked a local political leader to help her get a loan of Rs. 50,000, so that she could start a business. He said if I could bring him`Rs. 10,000,`he would get me the loan. She realized then that was to pay off bank officials. This sparked off something in her. She pledged that from now on, she would help people too, but in a different manner.` Gradually, she began to help people in various matters, including a litigation case over a plot of land where people like her were wronged. This eventually encouraged her to enter the real estate business and a few other businesses like a sugar factory in Ahmednagar.
By this time her boutique business had grown and from the profits of this business she invested in a furniture business and a beauty parlour. The going for her was getting to be good.
She was living in Kalyan during this period, where she was becoming known for her work with the marginalized. A few workers of Kamani Tubes Ltd. heard of this and approached her for help.` At that time, the company was a part of the Kamani Group of Industries which included Kamani Metals, Kamani Tubes and Kamani Engineering.
Kamani Group`s case was a historic one in India. In 1988, the Supreme Court had decided to make the workers the owners of the company. Since banks too wanted to encourage this trend, four banks gave loans to the company and the government too pitched in.
Due to issues between the workers, union and management, Kamani Tubes went bankrupt and was facing liquidation. She came into the picture only in the year 2000 when the company had a debt` of Rs. 116 crore, 140 litigation cases and two workers unions.
Kamani Tubes had no significant assets to its name. The factory in Kurla (Mumbai) was not operational. Machine parts had been stolen. The office space was occupied by tenants who had been there for years. The four-acre land the factory stood on was divided between Kamani Metals and Kamani Engineering. Thinking of the`plight of the workers, she decided to take the plunge.
Bringing it back
She had studied the company`s problems and realized that the debt had built up because of interests and penalties. She approached the Finance Minister around 2005 and requested that these (interests, penalties) be waived off. Her grounds for the request were that if the company goes into liquidation, the banks would get nothing. But since she was trying to turn the firm around, if they were waived, it would be possible for her to pay the debt back.
her good intentions were noticed. The minister called up the chairmen of all the banks and got them to waive the extra charges off and the liabilities came down to about Rs. 45 crore. This was just one part of the problem with this firm. The other was the 140 litigation cases. They were tackled systematically and the company was finally released from the BIFR in June 2011. I restarted the factory on my own land in Wada (Thane). Gradually, the company has limped back to normalcy with a better production and distribution network. It has paid off the workers and was able to give back the dues of the original owner, Navinbhai Kamani.
Kalpana Saroj also started KS Film Production and produced first movie which was dubbed in English, Telgu and Hindi Languages. "Khairalnji Movie" is produced by Deelip Mhaske, Jyoti Reddy and Mannan Gore under Kalpana Saroj's banner.
According to her own estimates, she has personal assets worth $112`million.
Kalpana Saroj was awarded the`Padma Shri`for Trade and Industry in 2013.
She was appointed to the board of directors of`Bhartiya Mahila Bank, a bank primarily for women, by the government of India.
Please view her inspirational video by clicking on the link below:-