Srikanth Bolla is the CEO of Hyderabad Based Bollant Industries, In his organisation that employs uneducated and disabled employees to manufacture eco-friendly, disposable consumer packing solutions, which is worth Rs 50 crores.
“Twenty- three years later, Srikanth Bolla is standing tall living by his conviction that if the “world looks at me and says, Srikanth, you do nothing, I look back at the world and say I can do anything””
When he was born, some neighbours in the village told that his parents smother him. It was better than the pain of whole life, some said. He is a useless baby without eyes since childhood, others added.
Srikanth said that He is a luckiest man alive, not because he is now a millionaire, but because his unschooled parents, who earned Rs 20,000 a year, did not listen to anybody of the advice they received and raised him with love and affection. “They are the richest people I know”
Srikanth Bolla success story
What is it about success stories like Srikanth’s that so motivate and fill one with hope? Could it be the multiple zeroes after a dollar sign or the belief that you and I can achieve similar success if we set our minds and hearts to it? Underdog success stories touch a raw nerve. After all, everyone faces unpleasant situation, they dream and they work hard. It is another stuff that only a few cross the threshold of limits set by society.
In Srikanth’s case, It is pure determination that shines through the dark clouds of his an unfortunate condition. Being blind was just one part of the story. He was also born poor. Ad you know what that means in a society like ours.
In School days, He was back bencher and no one ready to play with him. The little village school had no way of knowing what inclusion meant. When we wanted to take up science after his class X, He was denied the option because of his disorder. All of 18, Srikanth not only fought the system but went on to become the first international blind student to be admitted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.
Today, Srikanth has owner of four production houses, one each in Hubli (Karnataka), Nizamabad (Telangana), and two in Hyderabad (Telangana). Another plant which is solar operated is coming up in Sri City, an integrated business city in Andhra Pradesh, 55 Kms from Chennai.
Two year ago Angle investor Ravi Mehta met Srikanth, was so impressed with his business acumen and vision for his company that he not only decided to mentor him but also invested in Srikanth’s company that he not only decided to promote him but also invested in Srikanth’s company.
Isolation a big curse – Srikanth Bolla
“Near Hyderabad industrial area, It was a small tin-roof shack. There were eight employees and three machines under the shed. I expected him to talk about how he wanted to make a social impact, but was surprised by the business clarity and technical knowhow in someone so young.” Ravi says.
They are rising around Rs 13 crores in funding and have already raised Rs 9 cores. According to Ravi, his personal goal is to “take the company to IPO.” A vision to build a sustainable company with a workforce comprising 70 percent people with disability is no mean task. “Srikanth’s motive is inbuilt in the company. It is not just a lip service to CSR” Adds Ravi.
Isolation of differently-abled people starts at birth.”Srikant said in his first public speech on the INKTTalks stage in Mumbai. According to him,
“Compassion is a way of showing someone to live, to give someone an opportunity to thrive and make them rich. Richness does not come from money, It comes from happiness.”
When Srikanth was growing up, his father would take him to the fields but the little boy couldn’t be any help to the fields but the little boy couldn’t be of any help. His father then decided that he might as well study. “In my parent’s entrepreneurship model, I was a failure. In entrepreneurship, we have a lean business model where we evaluate an enterprise and say how quickly it fails.” My school 5 kms away from my village, he had to make his way there generally on foot. He did this for two years. “No one acknowledged my presence my presence”. I was put in last bench. I could not participate in the PT class. That was the time in my life I thought I was the poorest child in the world. It was not lack of money but because of loneliness.”
Fortune favours the brave -Srikanth Bolla
Srikanth’s father realized that the child was not learning anything, he admitted Srikanth to a special school in Hyderabad. The boy thrived in the compassion he was shown there. He not only learnt to play chess and cricked excelled in them. He topped his class, even embracing an opportunity to work with late President DR APJ Abdul Kalam in the lead India project.
But none of this much because Srikanth was denied admission to the science stream in class XI. He passed the Aandhra Pradesh class X state board exams with over 90 present marks, but the board said that he took only arts subjects after that. Because I was born blind, No I was made blind by the perception of the people.” I sued the government and fought some time. After some time government said that I could take since subjects but at my ‘own risk’.
Thus not ‘risking’ anything to chance, Srikanth did whatever he could to prove them wrong. He got all the textbooks converted to audio books, worked day and night to complete the course and managed to secure 98 percent in the XII Board exams.
Sometimes, life mimics a steeplechase. Especially when it comes to those it has big plans for. It did not give Srikanth enough time to bask in his victory when it threw another spanner in the works. He applied for IIT, BITSPILANI and other top engineering collages, but did not get hall ticked instead.
Passion – Srikanth Bolla
“I got a letter saying ’you are blind, hence you are not allowed to apply for competitive exams.’ If IIT did not want me, I did not want IIT either. How long can you fight?”
He chooses his carrier carefully and did his homework searing the internet to find the best engineering programme for someone like himself. He applied to schools in the US and got into the top four-MIT, Stanford, Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon. HE went to MIT (with a scholarship) as the first international blind student in the school’s history.
It was not easy adjusting to life there. But slowly and slowly he started to do well. Towards the end of graduation when the ‘what next’ question came up, it brought him back to where he had started.
“Many questions bother me. Why should a disabled child be pushed to the back row in the class? Why should the 10 percent of disabled population of India be left out of the Indian economy? Why can’t they make living like everyone else with dignity?”
Good always rebounds -Srikanth Bolla
He decided to give up the ‘golden’ opportunity in corporate America and came back to India in search of answers to his questions. He set up a support service platform to rehabilitate nature and integrate differently –abled people in society. “We helped about 3000 students in acquiring an education and vocational rehabilitation. But then I thought what about their employment? So I built this company and now employ 150 differently-abled people.”
Entrepreneur is not easy. It is brave hearts like the warriors of Paulo Coelho always find one unflinching support, an anchor to keep them afloat, In Srikanth’s case. It is his Co- founder swarnalatha. “She was his special needs teacher in school. She was his special needs teacher in school. She has been his mentor and guide through all these years. She trains all the employees with disabilities at Bollant thereby creating a strong community they feel valued,” says Ravi, adding, “Srikanth is a true source of my inspiration. He is not only my young friend and protégé but is also my mentor who teaches me daily that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.”
The boy who was born blind is today showing many the paths to real happiness. He says his three most important life lessons are:
“Show compassion and make people rich. Include people in your life and remove loneliness, and lastly, do something good; It will come back to you.”