Hello, everyone. Today’s article is a very special tribute to one of India’s most legendary business Maharajas, Mahashay Dharampal Gulati. This is the story of a man who rose from being a tonga driver to establishing an empire with an annual turnover of Rs. 2000 crores.
And what makes his story even more unique is that he developed a business during a period when people were fighting just to survive since India was still recuperating from the partition.
Dharampal Ji was born in 1923 in Sialkot, which is now part of modern-day Pakistan, into a Hindu household with strong principles of honesty and simplicity. And he’d been a carefree kid with a burning desire to do something amazing since he was a child.
Gulati Ji had a string of failures since he was a child; he dropped out of school in class 5 and tried a variety of careers where he couldn’t find fulfillment. He then attempted to sell Mehendi (Henna) from street to street.
And even that didn’t work. His father then attempted to open a separate shop for him and his brother, but even that initiative failed. So, after years of attempting various jobs such as selling wood and mirrors, he ultimately chose to settle in and start running his father’s spice shop, which was known at the time as Mahashian Di Hatti.
But, when he was only 25 years old and starting to settle down in his business, and it was picking up, the India-Pakistan partition occurred. And by midnight, the entire country was in disarray.
And because Sialkot became a part of Pakistan so quickly, they managed to board a train that took them to Amritsar, and if you’ve seen the movie ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,’ you’d have a pretty good notion of how bad the partition situation was.
In fact, the train that Gulati Ji’s family boarded was filled with the dead bodies of those who had died as a result of the partition chaos. So he resided in the Amritsar camp for a while before deciding to relocate to Delhi and work as a tonga driver.
Back then, he had already been married for 7 years because he married at the age of 18. So he had the responsibility to create a good life for his family. But after a few months, he realized that being a tonga driver was not enough to offer a good living for his family.
And it was at that point that he decided to resume his father’s business and open a tiny spice shop in Delhi. That is when he named his shop Mahashian Di Hatti, which is now known as MDH. Even after the partition, people in India were still striving to recover from the massacres of division.
Millions of individuals had lost everything, and India as a country was in a state of poverty, with 80 percent of the total population living below the poverty line. So, in general, markets never focused on quality because producing quality products during that time would increase the cost of production, decrease your profit margins, and most importantly, because the cost of the product would increase, the majority of people would not be able to afford it eventually, resulting in a decrease in sales.
So, selling quality products and running a viable business was nearly impossible at the time. As a result, the majority of the products sold on the market, including milk and salt, were completely destroyed.
To enhance the quantity of milk, for example, it was blended with a large amount of water. Even toxic substances were utilised to compensate for the density. Similarly, yellow soil was combined with haldi (turmeric) powder and sawdust with dhaniya (coriander) powder.
And, just like that, spices were being contaminated to a considerable level because it was nearly hard for the average person to tell the difference between pure spices and adulterated spices.
Gulati Ji, on the other hand, spent his blood and sweat into ensuring that his shop always supplied unadulterated spices. Because he believed that the primary goal of any firm should be to provide excellent service rather than to generate a profit.
And money should always be a byproduct of providing excellent service. That is why Gulati Ji worked extremely hard to oversee every single procedure of spice production in order to provide a taste of pure spices to the ordinary man of India. And can you imagine how difficult it would have been for the people? He had to keep the price low in order to match the price of the tainted spices.
Second, he had to maintain his margins razor-thin because his production costs were significantly higher than those of tainted spices. Most significantly, despite producing the best product on the market, he was generating very little money.
Throughout these difficult times, however, this wonderful man toiled diligently with the goal of one day being able to develop a brand that the mother of an ordinary household may blindly trust when preparing dinner for her family.
And do you know what? Slowly and surely, people began to notice the difference between Gulati Ji’s spices and the adulterated spices, and soon enough, people began to line up outside his shop to purchase his products.
And so Gulati Ji’s modest shop, Mahashian Di Hatti Masale, or MDH Masale, became a well-known brand in Delhi. As his business grew, he began to recruit friends and family members in the hopes that they would be able to uphold his belief in providing people with high-quality spices.
He also began outsourcing other processes, such as turmeric powdering. And then, just when everything seemed to be going well, he was presented with even more difficult circumstances, and this is where ordinary folks like you and me may learn a very important lesson.
People, Gulati Ji was a person who did everything in his shop, from raw material transportation to spice grinding; he engaged in every single action, which is why he quickly became an expert in detecting even the smallest amount of adulteration in his spices.
When a result, as he expanded, he was able to maintain the same high-quality standards that he had established while selling spices from his little shop. And, as a result of his sharpness and devotion, he was able to identify key flaws in his system that could have utterly wrecked his business.
because he quickly realized that the contractor who was powdering his turmeric was really adding Chana Dal with the turmeric powder to adulterate it. And when he noticed similar behaviors in many of these outsourcing ventures.
He realised that this flaw would jeopardise his clients’ faith. And, in order to maintain his clients’ faith, he stopped all of his outsourcing tactics and invested his entire life savings into opening his own factory where he could powder all of the spices.
Not only that, but His childhood friend cheated him by taking a commission on every single material that came in from the supplier. And many of his friends and family, who were meant to help him flourish, began generating a lot of problems while this man was investing his blood and sweat into making sure he could sell pure spices to the moms of India.
And so, despite numerous challenges, Gulati Ji was able to develop a brand in which Indian moms could put their trust. And it is because of Gulati Ji’s great hard work that folks like you and me can now enjoy delectable delicacies like Chole Batture and Pav Bhaaji.
And in a world where people talk of retiring at the age of 30, and people like you and me who frequently feel lethargic despite accomplishing nothing. Even at the age of 97, this iconic figure was filming for an advertisement.
So, as a result of this incredible dedication and persistence, combined with extraordinary business acumen, MDH now exports spices to the United States, China, Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, with US exports alone valued at $351.
All of these combined to make Gulati Ji one of the icons for whom India is now recognised for spices all over the world. Now the issue is, what can we learn from the extraordinary narrative of the Spice King?
Lesson From Mahashay Dharampal Gulati’s Life:
Lesson 1: We must all recognise that optimism is the faith that leads to greatness, and the true test of optimism is how you choose to react even in the face of adversity, such as the partition in Gulati Ji’s life.
While an optimist looks for opportunities in every adversity, a pessimist looks for difficulties even in times of great opportunity.
Lesson 2: While outsourcing is necessary for any organisation to scale rapidly, it is also crucial to realise that outsourcing, coupled with rapid expansion, will introduce numerous loopholes.
As a result, as the head of a business organisation, it is critical that you do all of the petty work in the beginning since what appears to be petty experience in the beginning will eventually help you uncover the vulnerabilities in your business that might potentially damage your entire corporation.
Finally, and most significantly, everyone of us must recognise that greatness comes at a price that few people can afford. For example, relatively few people could truly settle in for lower profits by selling pure spices at the time.
Because very few people understand that the cost of greatness cannot be paid with stacks of currency notes, very few people have the ability to put in the hard work to examine every single process in order to sell pure spices and keep the trust of an innocent mother when she wanted to make something tasty for her family.