He was born with it – or without it if I may say. The neighbors wanted his parents to get rid of him. He was blind and “useless”.
The same “useless” boy is standing tall today with a whopping Rs 50 crore empire. Srikanth Bolla is the CEO of Hyderabad-based Bollant Industries, which employs uneducated and disabled people to manufacture eco-friendly and disposable consumer packaging solutions.
”World looks at me and says, ‘Srikanth, you can do nothing,’ and I look back at the world and say I can do anything.”
He regards his parents as the richest ones. They didn’t pay heed to what the world said but gave him the gift of education, even while their own income was meager.
His blindness blinded his peers to his presence, making him feel alone and secluded. That is when his father felt the need to relocate him to a special school in Hyderabad. And what a miracle right places can do for the right people!
Srikanth started passing his academic exams with brilliance and got involved with extra-curricular activities like chess and cricket. However, even at this point, he was denied the Science stream. He still chose it. Later, he wasn’t allowed to give competitive exams and IIT rejected him without ever testing him in the first place.
That’s when Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US accepted his admission.
What a pity it is for India to see its own seed blossoming on another land!
In 2012, after his graduation, he came back home to launch Bollant Industries. Angel Ravi Mantha was impressed by his clarity of his vision and became his mentor and investor.
What started as a small, tin-roof shack with eight employees and three machines under a shed soon transformed into a giant industry worth Rs 50 crore. Currently, Bollant houses 450 employees with 60% of them being disabled.
After raising Rs 9 crore funding in its first round, the company was looking forward to another Rs 13 crore. Recently, Ratan Tata invested an undisclosed amount in Bollant Industry. In fact, last year, Srikanth Bolla was also recognized by NDTV with the ‘Indian of the Year’ award.
Srikanth’s vision was not just to prove his mettle by building some millions, it was much deeper. He has faced a lot of criticism and discrimination and even after graduating from MIT, the way he was treated led him to reject golden job opportunities in high-end US companies.
“Many questions bothered me. Why should a disabled child be pushed to the back row in the class? Why should the 10 percent of the disabled population of India be left out of the Indian economy? Why can’t they make a living like everyone else with dignity?”
And so, he took on the challenge to provide answers to these very questions by not only laying the foundation of the first million-worthy company by a blind man in India but to also pick 70% of its employees from those who were disabled. Disability to Srikanth doesn’t mean showing sympathy or pity. He has become a perfect example to people who mistake compassion as donation.
He seeks to show compassion by offering opportunities to the disabled by enabling them to thrive with independence.
“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.”