In this special feature, our bureau brings you vignettes of some Indian Achievers, who have made their mark in different endeavours within the Indian economy, carving out a niche for themselves in their respective domains of business and service to society. Each one of them is apropos a success story, telling you about their indomitable spirit, their attention to detail, their attitude and approach to organisation building, wealth creation and contributions to their communities. Read on …


Sarat Babu’s story is about determination, a mother’s hard work, an enterprise and a family’s fight against the odds. Sarat accompanied his mother as she sold idlis on the pavements of Chennai to supplement her meagre income. Despite the hardships, his mother encouraged him to get an education. With the help of his family, and a loan of INR 30,000, Sarat managed to get into the prestigious BITS Pilani and followed that with an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. ‘Food King’ was launched in 2006 to cater to the needs of students at his alma mater – IIM Ahmedabad, and soon he expanded to his other training ground, BITS Pilani. Serving 2000 meals everyday, Food King today serves five universities across India. Today he conducts his food busi ness in six locations, with a turnover of INR 9 Crore. Sarat has also recently launched a fast food restaurant and hopes to take the count to a 1000 by 2016 touching revenues of INR 50 Crore. In this particular sector, the challenges were availability of capital which applies to any other sector and then, the availability of quality manpower which was also one of the biggest challenges. The third challenge was since he was a first-time entrepreneur and didn’t have any capital and/or a credit track record in the market. So nobody was willing to give credit. His determination has made him not just a true leader in business, but in public life as well. The dark horse in the 2009 general elections, Sarat polled more than 15,000 votes in his debut attempt. Despite that drubbing, he did not give up his political aspirations. He stood as an independent candidate from Velacheri in the recent Tamilnadu elections but lost again. His manifesto was that he wanted to see a hunger-free India in his lifetime. He would create at least 1000 entrepreneurs in his constituency in the small and medium segment. He promised that in the next five years there would not be a single child from his constituency missing school. So far, he has addressed almost 3.5 Lakh students and slum children. His team consists of 1500 volunteers and well-wishers, including 10 classmates from IIM-A.


This is another “believe it or not” entrepreneurial story of India. A decade ago, the father and son duo of Kapil & Rahul Bhatia were just another travel agency in Connaught Place. Five years later they had started off as a small-time humble budget airline, and are now Gurgaon-based IndiGo Airlines. Rahul likes to keep a low profile, but his business makes him visible all over India – and increasingly, the world. IndiGo, with it’s two-tone blue livery and enviable on-time performance has become a familiar, favoured brand. Winner of AIMA’s ‘Entrepereneur of the Year Award,’ Rahul feels the low-cost airline model would prevail over time. Rahul is an electrical engineer from Ontario, Canada, who has over the years accumulated experience and exposure from his family travel business. After a two-year stint with IBM,he roped in an experienced aviation management guru, Rakesh Gangwar, formally of the US Airways, with a 50% share. IndiGo has since become the largest no-frills lowcost carrier which walks its talk about what customers want, i.e., on-time departure, clean aircrafts, and a good and clean flying experience. Its on-time performance record apropos is 80.6%. The airline started operations in August 2006, and currently is the largest airline in India by market-share. IndiGo is also one of the fastest growing airlines in South Asia, operating to 33 destinations in India and abroad with 399 daily flights. Unlike most LCCs, IndiGo uses a hub and spoke model used by full-service airlines, where the flights to different destinations are all routed through the hub. IndiGo has won many awards and recognitions including ‘Best LCC’ by the Airlines Passengers Association of India (2007), ‘Best LCC’ at the Galileo Express Travel Awards (2008), the CNBC Awaz’s Travel Award for ‘Best Low-Cost Airline’ (2009), Skytrax Award – ‘Best LCC’ (2010, 2011, 2012).


Acardiac physician, Dr. Keki Byramjee Grant started out at the Jehangir Hospital in Pune, at that time a small city of a quarter of a million. The hospital was much too small for his vision at the age of 38, so he decided to break out on his own by acquiring a colonial cottage named “Ruby Hall’ and converting it to a small nursing home with just two beds. Dedication and discipline were his watchwords and with that he gathered a team of doctors and nursing staff around him, whose fame spread far and wide for superior and low cost medical care – somuch so that the Ruby Hall Clinic, which still retains that name – became the Poona Medical Foundation, a charitable trust. Ten years into branching off on his own, Dr. Grant would examine as many as 300 out-patients a day. Each in-patient was seen by him personally twice a day, imparting a sense of great confidence in the hospital. It was but natural that the institution grew from strength to strength, and by 1999, the hospital had 76 beds in the intensive care unit, the largest then in the entire country. Today the hospital has 550 beds, and with the introduction of a separate intensive coronary care unit (ICCU), has 130 ICU beds. With a staff strength of 150 consultants, 500 panel doctors and 1400 paramedical staff, the hospital is ranked first in Pune among the leading Super Specialty medical centres in the country, covering as it does 35 different specialties, amongst which are bone-marrow transplant, cardiology, cosmetic surgery, critical care, diagnostics, IVF and gynaec-endoscopy, joint replacement, kidney transplant and dialysis, liver transplantation, neuro-surgery, bariatric surgery, oncology/cancer and spinal surgery.

An ardent advocate of cardio-vascular exercise, Dr. Grant was known to jog home from the hospital everyday, while his car followed him. Each year he would participate in the Pune marathon and take home the first prize among senior citizens. At the age of 90, just before he passed away, the Government of India recognised the sterling services of this illustrious son of India by awarding him the Padma Bhushan in 2011. Those who have seen this sage of individual entrepreneurship over the years, would indeed remark, “What a footprint”!


Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi is widely regarded as the pioneer of the cutflower revolution in the world. Under his leadership, Karuturi Global has become the world’s largest producer of cut-roses by identifying Kenya and Ethiopia as a hub for cultivation and export of roses. Ram, as he is known to those close to him, was instrumental in acquiring 3,11,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia for a strategic foray into agricultural production. He holds a Bachaelor’s degree in Mathamatical Engineering from Bangalore University, and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio. Karuturi Global has an area of 250 hectares under greenhouse cultivation and an annual production capacity of around 550 million stems per year. Karuturi is one of the lowest cost producers of cut-roses in the world. Almost the entire production is exported to high-value markets such as Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Muscat, Dubai, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and North America, with a small portion sold in India. Karuturi Global’s other fast growing business realms are food processing, floriculture retail (including a flower option portal) and information technology. Karuturi founded the company in 1994 to produce and export roses. As an aside, it is interesting to note here that the idea took seed and germinated in his mind after an incident where while in an attempt to please his wife, Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi wandered around Bangalore in pursuit of red roses, and eventually ended up founding this firm producing roses for the world ! He has since diversified into agriculture (in 2008), planning to grow food crops such as maize, rice and sugarcane. Ram is widely regarded as thought leader and pioneer in the cutflower industry and has been given the title of ‘Rose King of the World.’ Karuturi Global Limited has acquired 111,700 hectares of land in Ethiopia to produce cereals, palm-oil and sugar. The company is listed in the BSE and NSE, two premier stock exchanges of India. Ramakrishna has been nominated as a member of Frontier 100, and is also included in a list of Top 20 CEOs from Africa, contributing to the alleviation of poverty through their businesses. Karuturi Global has received the business excellence award in agribusiness from Corporate Council on Africa in Washington DC.


VS S Mani started Just Dial with just 50,000 rupees in a 300 sq.ft of space, and owns 33% stake in the firm. It is now worth INR 1253 Crore. He started in 1992 from a fgarage in Mumbai. Today he heads the leading local search company in India that bridges tyhe gap between buyers and sellers by helping a buyer find a right provider of products and services, by helping sellers improve the efficiency of their marketing channels. Just Dial recently bagged the Red Hat Innovation Award in the Carved Out Costs Category. It is the first Indian company to bag this award. Mani is a tamil brahmin born and brought up in Kolkata. He thought of the idea while working for United Database India (UDI, a yellow pages company in 1987. He felt that the information would prove to be much more useful if it could be provided over the phone. In 1996, he came to know that Mumbai’s Kandivali Exchange owned the number 888 8888. However the company could not be started for almost a year because Mani could not afford a telephone connection, which used to cost 15,000 rupees. The company finally started providing local search services over the phone in 1996, under the ‘Just Dial’ brand and launched their internet and mobile services in 2007. Mani started the company with a fewpieces of borrowed furniture, rented computers, a 3×5 feet garage that he took on hire, and a seed capital of 50,000 rupees.

In fiscal 2012, Just Dial addressed over 254.3 million search queries from millions of users across platforms. As of March 31st 2012, Just Dial had 6201 employees. It has a database of approximately 7.7 million listings and approximately 1,81,000 campaigns as of June 30, 2012. Just Dial has registered INR 2,770.2 million as consolidated total revenue from continuing operations and INR 522.8 million as consolidated restated profits after tax from continuing operations in fiscal 2012.


For most people, failing in college can feel like the end of the world. But for Nina Lekhi, it was just another stop on the road to success. Today, Lekhi, owner of the premium brand of ladies’ handbags and accessories, Baggit, boasts 21 stores across 8 cities in India. She is also on the verge of launching her first store overseas, in Saudi Arabia. Lekhi’s jaw-dropping journey started when she flunked her first year exams in her Textile Designing course at the Sophia Polytechnic in Mumbai in 1983. With time on her hands till the reexam, the teenager decided she would ‘prove herself.’ So she enrolled for a screen printing and textile designing workshop. Bursting with energy and highly motivated, the youngster learnt her first few lessons in retail while selling carpets at a store in Mumbai and taking up temporary jobs with a couple of top-notch fashion designers. Then Lekhi borrowed INR 7,000 from her mother and bought some fabric, rope and other raw materials. Her first employees were the building’s lift-man and security guard, who cut the material in their free time while a neighbourhood tailor sewed it into bags. That was in 1985. Baggit was a style statement at a time when ladies’ handbags were staid and boring. Lekhi sold her first few bags at exhibitions. Her proudest moment came when she launched her first exclusive Baggit outlet at Kemps Corner in Mumbai. Lekhi believes it is important to create a work environment where everybody feels they have an equal stake in the business. Today, total number of employees in Baggit is 750. Over 60% of Baggit’s revenue comes from bags, while wallets contribute 20%. Accessories such as caps and belts contribute the rest. At Baggit, everything from weaving and printing to manufacturing and labeling is done in-house. This helps arrest manufacturing delays and keeps quality under control. Baggit has grown at a CAGR of 30% over the last five years and the brand is now worth an estimated INR 50 Crores in the market. But Lekhi is still looking for gaps to fill.

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