How a Blind CEO Built a 50 Crore Company
Srikanth Bolla has a story – not exactly a fairytale story, but definitely one that should inspire people to stop complaining about what they don’t have and go out and create their own future. He was born to uneducated parents, in a village where his neighbours suggested to his parents that they should smother him, because a blind child is ‘useless’, and being born blind is a ‘sin’. Today, Srikanth considers himself to be a very lucky man, because his parents didn’t listen to this kind of heartless advice, and chose to bring him up the way he was. He is now all over the news and social media, as the ‘Blind CEO who built a Rs.50 Crore company’.
At 23, Srikanth now says, “The world looks at me and says, ‘Srikanth, you can do nothing,’ I look back at the world and say ‘I can do anything’.” He is the CEO of Hyderabad-based Bollant Industries, which employs uneducated and disabled people to manufacture eco-friendly, disposable consumer packaging solutions. Bollant Industries is worth Rs 50 crores today. But how did he do it? It wasn’t easy at all.
He was made an outcast in the small village school where he initially studied, and so his parents sent him to a school for the differently abled in Hyderabad. This is where things turned around for him. His sadness and loneliness slowly faded away, with the compassion and support that he got from his teachers and fellow students in school. He excelled in academics, as well as chess and cricket. He scored over 90% in his class 10 board examinations, but was not allowed by the board to choose Science as his stream for Class 11 and 12, only because he was blind. This was a major setback, but Srikanth was determined.
He sued the government and fought in court for 6 months, till he was allowed to study Science ‘at his own risk’. He immediately converted his textbooks to audiobooks, and worked hard to score 98% in his class 12 boards. This was still not enough for him to get into BITS Pilani or IIT, as he was not allowed to sit for entrance exams due to his disability. He still did not give up, and did much better by getting into the top 4 schools in the US, eventually studying at MIT with a scholarship. Unlike most people, he chose to come back to India after completing his course, with the idea of empowering those who are differntly abled, and finding a way to make them fit into society just like anyone else. Initially helping about 3000 students in acquiring an education and vocational rehabilitation, he then thought about their employment, and set up his company, where he has emplyed 150 differently abled people.
Srikanth says that his major inspiration and guidance was his special needs teacher, Swarnalatha, who also happens to be the co-founder of his company, and trains all employees with disabilities, thus creating a community with a strong sense of belonging and teamwork.
Hats off to Srikanth for his endeavours, and may his light shine on our country’s youth and inspire them to do great things, just like him.