This story fails every logic and is stranger than fiction. It was only the determination and courage of this 16-year-old boy which has today given him a larger than life image.
This clueless, small-towner boy listened to his friends when they told him that only Mumbai can change his fate. He did not have a single penny in hand and had to sleep empty stomach at railway station in Mumbai. But this was still easier for him than to fight back the pain of consecutive deaths of his elder brother and father.
The boy hails from Durgapur in West Bengal. His father was an army-man who suffered bullet wounds in the 1971 war and was left paralyzed. The only breadwinner was his elder brother who died because they had no money to cure his illness. His father couldn’t absorb this shock and died three months later. Now his mother was the only emotional support he had but she was also a responsibility.
In May 1989, the 16-year-old boy sleeping at Dadar Railway Station had nothing except sheer determination and a rosy future which he wasn’t aware of then. Words of his friends proved true when got a Rs 15 job and a place to sleep in a room in occupied by 20 other men. The room was so small that occupants couldn’t move even while sleeping.
The boy, Sudip Dutta, would happily walk 40 km every day from his Meera Road home to factory in Jogeshwari and back because he could save some money to send to his mother. There were four siblings to be fed.
Two years later, the factory where he worked made losses and the owners decided to shut it down. But his company’s death proved to be game-changer for him. He mustered all his courage and decided to buy the loss-making firm. He went ahead and used his entire savings and even borrowed money from friends to raise Rs 16,000 to buy the unit.
The 19-year-old Sudip, who could not even feed himself properly, had taken responsibility of running seven families of labours who worked in his company. The sum of Rs 16,000 was very less for the unit but he convinced the owners that he would share the profits of the unit for the coming two years. They agreed and he became owner of the unit where till yesterday he was a labour.
It was a tragic time for the aluminum packaging industry. Only a few large corporations like Jindal Aluminum could make profits backed by their robust financial strength.
Sudip realized the need for innovation and came up with a whole new product range which was much better than others. However, competing with giants like Jindal wasn’t an easy task. He pitched his products relentlessly to large companies and made his unit survive by delivering orders from small companies.
He would wait for hours to meet business heads but never gave up. His efforts and communication skills started showing results when he received small orders from FMCG and pharma giants like Sun Pharma, Cipla, Nestle and others.
Though Sudip had tasted initial success, he wasn’t aware of larger challenge to come his way. He had created a new product area which was now being targeted by other companies.
A business group backed by business tycoon Anil Agarwal had bought India Foils which was defunct company just to venture into packaging area. Agarwal and his Vedanta group are one of world’s largest companies. It was a mammoth and impossible looking task to even survive in the business area where Vedanta existed.
Unaffected by giant Vedanta’s presence in the industry, Sudip continued his research and development for improving his product range and maintained strong bonds with his customers. Finally, Vedanta had to surrender before Sudip’s determination and offered to sell India Foils to Sudip. The deal marked Vedanta’s permanent exit from the industry.
He started targeting pharmaceutical companies for supplying packaging material and also invested in a sick unit which made aluminum foils. There was no looking back from now on. He became a distributor for Indian Aluminium Co. Ltd and within two years from 1998 and 2000, he set up 20 units!
After this Sudip’s company took giant leaps and and made a distinct identity in the market. His company today is listed both with the Bombay and National Stock Exchange and is a leading supplier of primary packaging materials in India. His achievements have given Sudip title of Narayan Murthy of packaging industry.
The heavyweight names like Cipla, Nestle and Sun Pharma are his clients now and the company is valued at over Rs 1,600.79 crore!
He lives in posh locality of Andheri where several actors live and sends his children to a school in Singapore! He works from his posh, multi-storied office in Kandivili. Today, his cabin is larger than that dingy room where he lived along with 20 more men.
The man who walked for several kilometers everyday today owns luxury cars like BMW and Mercedes. Even after reveling in crores of rupees, he is humble and connected to his roots. Workers in his factory lovingly address him as Dada (elder brother) because they all have seen him struggle and reach the top.
Sudip says, “Adversity always makes a man more determined and I was determined to succeed. So I kept working at it.” His life’s story is extraordinarily inspiring and tells us the worth of courage and dreaming big.
Struggle teaches a lot of lessons and Sudip realizes that it is now his turn to give back to the society. He has set up a foundation which encourages young entrepreneurs and start-ups, especially those who come from a weak economic background.