He is iconic in Indian homes and there is no other brand a woman is likely to pick over his. He does not look fancy but his presence on advertisements is enough for people to buy his products. Dharampal Gulati, founder of MDH Spices, has been ruling millions of kitchens single-handedly since many decades now. His entrepreneurial journey goes back to partition and is highly inspirational.
Born in Pakistan’s Sialkot district, Dharampal ji dropped out from school when he was only 10-years-old. That was the end of his formal education after which he joined his father’s business of spices. He was young and got distracted very easily in those days. He wanted to try his hand in other businesses and got into the business of selling soaps as in was a new concept in the late 1930s. After this, he made frequent jumps and tried his hand at cloth business and also became a rice merchant. It is surprising to know that the man who built such a huge empire also took up a job in his youth days.
None of these businesses could hold him for a long time and he decided to take an active role in his father’s business. He was beginning to settle but a bigger tragedy had stuck lives of millions. It was 1947 and he came to know that his birthland Sialkot will now be a part of Pakistan. He joined hundreds of Sikhs and Hindus who were fleeing to India and reached Amritsar three weeks after the nations had been declared independent – on September 7, 1947.
After a few days in Amritsar refugee camp, he moved to Delhi as he knew living would be cheaper there. Before leaving Pakistan, his father had entrusted him with Rs 1,500, some of which he used to buy a tanga (horse cart) and began charging two annas (one-sixteenth of a rupee) to ferry passengers from Connaught Place to Karol Bagh.
These were the days of extreme poverty and despite calling out for customers for the entire day, Dharampal ji couldn’t take enough money to home. People insulted him in the market and soon came a time when he could not spend another day in poverty. He sold his tanga and rented a small shop to do what he knew best – sell spices.
Learning from his father combined with the magic of making spices under the name of Mahashiyan Di Hatti (MDH) took only few months to gain popularity among the people. The word of mouth gradually spread about the lip-smacking spices whose secret lay in the Pakistani soil and Dharampal ji knew that the days of worrying about the food were behind them.
He gained fame and more money gave way to bigger business opportunities. In 1953, he got his second shop on rent in Chandni Chowk and the profits rose higher. After six years, MDH was buying their first piece of plot in Kirti Nagar to set up their manufacturing unit. The grounds were set to do business on a national scale.
Today, MDH sell more than 60 products into more than 100 countries across the world. Carrying the load of his wife, a son and six daughter, Dharampal ji continued to struggle and make a successful business. His vision and unbreakable determination has taken his business to US, Canada, UK, Iran, Afghanistan, Europe and several other countries.
Because of years of hardwork, MDH is now a Rs 1500-crore company and Dharampal Gulati has become the highest-paid (consumer product) CEO who took home Rs 21 crore last fiscal. He left behind tycoons like Adi Godrej and Vivek Gambhir of Godrej Consumer, Sanjiv Mehta of Hindustan Unilever and ITC’s YC Deveshwar.
Dharampal ji has strong interest in philanthropic and says that 90% of his salary is spent on charitable works. Under his leadership, MDH has developed more than 20 schools including MDH International School, Mahashay Chunnilal Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Mata Leela Wati Kanya Vidhayala, and Mahashay Dharmpal Vidhya Mandir etc.
His motto has been to deliver his best with a belief that only best will come back. For decades, he has provided people great quality products and affordable price. Despite being a school drop-out and nobody to back his efforts, his entrepreneurial journey is mesmerizing and inspiring for the youth of today.
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