Monday, 3 July 2017

This Divyang Entrepreneur says "Disability - My Foot " Really !

Sharing a real life experience of a startup from Part II of my next ebook "He wasn't called 'Physically challenged' or the fancy Indian name given by an Indian Politician as  "Divyang" in current times;  he was affected by Polio in childhood and one leg was weaker and thinner than the Right Leg and people called him Lame in front of him to constantly remind of his disability. I met him when I was 12. I had lost my father and had shifted town to be with closer family for support.  He was our neighbour - elder to me by 6 years, was struggling with his Science Graduation exams year on year.  His parents were considered outcast by close family - Mother a Sindhi and Father a Gujrati businessman. Only brother was a Doctor and Captain in the Army. We became friends soon. Mr. T and another of his friend Mr. G both had similar vibes. Same college failures, similar habits, failed love affair and similar hobbies - travelling, biking, sightseeting.  Mr. T's father had a Surgical instrument company for which he would obtain yearly orders from School and college labs and Government hospitals. Business was not very good - they were Mid-Rich family. Mr. T with his disability had worked out on his Arms and they were very strong and could shame a Real good wrestler/ boxer.  He was a good bike driver and with his powerful arms would kick the toughest of bikes with his hands. He also drove at breakneck speed and driving with 'No hands'on the handle was his speciality.  Some of these traits were rubbing off on youngsters like me who did workout on our Arms with dumbells and weightlifting and learning to drive bikes as if we were getting to do a Tattoo exhibition in a Police parade ground. Mr. T's mom was a stickler for discipline and was a Principal of a Girls High school. He constant taunts troubled Mr. T and he began spending time in fathers' shop sometimes visiting hospitals, colleges to get orders.  He had moderate success in this. His fertile brain was quicke 'Mechanical' though.  He bought a .5 HP bike and removed every single part.  Learnt to re-assemble the bike with the help of a friend.  Then moved on to a Vespa Scooter and did the same.  He then drove from Raipur to New Delhi alone to meet his brother who was posted there.  This was really inspiring.  The .5HP Vicky bike broke down number of times but he had learnt to handle all situations so carried on. He then bought a Scrapped Morris 8 Car which the owner had stripped to the last part as the parts were not availalbe for replacement in local market. The Doctor owner did not have time and energy to repair it.  Mr. T bought it cheap for INR 600.  He then went to Mumbai by train, searched the parts bought them and booked them in the break van of the train all by himself.  With the help of a friendly mechanic they assembled the car in a few months on the road ( no workshop ) and took it for a ride.  The thought in his mind was to open a foreign car repair workshop and parts showroom.  He took this car with spoked wheels to many nearby towns with friends.  Overall a dynamic and hardworking personality. Couple of years later, he went to Mumbai and realised that Fish was brought from Mumbai as well as Calcutta by train to Raipur in break Vans.  He had an breakthrough idea.  He decided to bring coloroured / decorative real fish and create Aquariums for Home Decor.   Idea was unique.  He tested with his Rich/ Semi Rich friends, Hotels, Clubs and also with colleges.  He had lukewarm response but one single order.  He got Glass, found a glass cutter, an iron fabricator and a putty like thing ( No M Seal or Aluminium Angles or Double Glazed glass in those days).  Visited Mumbai and carried live decorative fish by train.  50% of them died.  He then put them in the Glass aquarium created and sold it.  He also kept one in his surgical goods showroom which drew huge crowd of children, students and adults alike.  People like the different coloured fish and wanted to know how expensive the hobby is.  Awareness levels in this small town of about 500,000 people was extremely high and people knew who supplies fish aquarium made of glass and iron for home decor and also get them fish and fish food from Mumbai.  Making the Glass aquarium was tough. He would do the assembly with his own hands while we friends would watch him toil. He would not delegate buying and transporting fish / fish food work to anyone.  Later he also brought a bubble maker so that oxygen would flow into the water.  He also began bringing variety into the fish by bringing shark like fish, tortoise, snake like fish etc. as Novelty to meet the demand of the customers who demanded them. Business was good.  When I remember this nearly 50 year old real story - it is a story of a physically challenged person who was determined had grit, courage and terrific will power to not just show initiative but FINISHIATIVE in what he decided to do. When I look at the today's Startups they are no different.  They are budding entrepreneurs with one or two ideas which they wish to pursue at all costs.  Mr. T had friends like us, a very supportive father and a huge network.  He had a gift of gab but generally he was a straight talker who would not mince words but nobody who knew him took him otherwise.  A Disabled, differently abled, Divyang could do this 50 years ago and I believe that even today with right support they can do well rather than being dependant.  My friend had to visit Mumbai every year to change his Calipers which supported his left - weak leg and as he had to stay for a month in Mumbai for this - he began getting ideas.  Shall share some of these in my Mentor talks/ lessons in coming days.  When I reflect back it is with nostalgic memories I remember my friend who inspite of his few vices was very dear to all of us in the family. "
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