A man who was born completely blind, has redefined the heights human beings can climb if they only try hard enough.
At age 23, Indian entrepreneur Srikanth Bolla is the CEO a company valued at INR 50 crore (over $7.5 million) . That’s a wonderful achievement in itself, but what’s truly inspiring is that he managed to do it despite being born completely blind.
Today, he considers himself the luckiest man in the world, not for his success, but for having supportive parents who always stood by him.
When Srikanth was born blind, several of his parents’ friends and relatives advised them to abandon him. That would indeed have been the easier thing to do, given the fact that they were poor and uneducated, earning a mere INR 20,000 ($300) a year. But they chose to not only keep the boy, but also raise him in a positive, loving environment.
“They are the richest people I know,” he often says.
And their excellent parenting has paid off – today, Srikanth is the CEO of Bollant Industries, a Hyderabad-based company that employs physically challenged staff to manufacture eco-friendly consumer packaging solutions made from leaves and recycled paper.
The company has four manufacturing units in three states in southern India – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka. Srikanth’s hard work and unprecedented success has impressed the business world, attracting investments from the likes of Indian business tycoon Ratan Tata.
It wasn’t an easy ride for Srikanth – he’s had to face several challenges all his life, including rejection from his peers at his village school. But he was later transferred to a school for special children, where he excelled at academics and also developed an interest for chess and cricket.
As he grew older, he started taking on larger challenges like former president APJ Abdul Kalam’s Lead India project. Although he struggled to keep up in high school, he eventually found a teacher who was kind enough to convert all his lessons into audio clips, helping him ace his final exams.
More rejection was in store for Srikanth, who dreamed of going to college at the IITs, India’s premier technology institutions. He was rejected despite having scored well in the entrance test, on the grounds that he was blind. But he managed to use his excellent academic records to gain admission into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from where he graduated in 2012. He returned to India soon after, and decided to start a company that would employ people who had struggled like himself in life.
“Compassion is not about giving a coin to a beggar at the traffic signal,” he said. “It’s showing somebody the way to live and giving them the opportunity to thrive. 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.”
Srikanth set up Bollant Industries in collaboration with Swarnalatha, his special needs teacher in school and lifelong mentor and friend. “She trains all the employees with disabilities at Bollant thereby creating a strong community where they feel valued,” explained Ravi Mantha, one of the company’s investors.
“Srikanth is my true source of 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.”