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Dharampal Gulati- MDH Founder

One of the most iconic business Maharajas of India whose name was Mahashay Dharampal Gulati. This is a story of a man who went from being a Tonga driver to building an empire with an operating revenue of 2000 crores. And the reason why his story is even more special is that he built a business during a time when people were struggling hard even to stay alive because back then India was still recovering from the massacres of partition.



Dharampal Ji was born in the year 1923 in Sialkot, which today, falls in modern-day Pakistan in a Hindu family which had high ideals of honesty and simplicity. And since childhood, he was a carefree kid with a sheer will to do something extraordinary. Gulati Ji, since childhood, experienced a lot of failures, he first dropped out of school in class 5 and tried doing several jobs where he couldn't find any fulfillment. Then he tried selling Mehendi (Henna) from street to street. and even that did not work out. Then, his father tried to set up a separate shop for him and his brother and eventually, even that venture failed. So after spending years trying to do different kinds of jobs like selling wood, and mirrors he finally decided to settle in and start running his father's spice shop which at that time was named Mahashian Di Hatti. But when he was just 25 years old and he began to settle down in his business and his business began to pick up the India-Pakistan partition happened. and within the midnight, the entire nation was in chaos. And because Sialkot became a part of Pakistan soon enough there was such massive bloodshed that hundreds of innocent people were killed due to the Hindu-Muslim riots. During that time they somehow managed to board a train that brought them to Amritsar, if you have seen the movie 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' you would pretty much have an idea of how terrible the situation of partition was. In fact, the very train that Gulati Ji's family boarded had the dead bodies of the people who had been killed due to the massacres of partition. So, he stayed in the refugee camp of Amritsar for quite some time and then decided to move to Delhi wherein he became a Tonga driver.


Now people, back then he was already married for 7 years because he got married at the early age of 18. So he had responsibilities on his shoulders to provide a good life for his family. But then after a few months, he understood that the Tonga driver's profession was not good enough to provide a good life for his family. And that is when he decided to restart his father's business and set up a small spice shop in Delhi. And that is when he named his shop Mahashian Di Hatti, which today is known by the name MDH.


Now, people, even after partition India was still struggling hard to recover from the massacres of partition. There were millions of people who had lost their everything and India as a country was in a state of poverty wherein 80% of the entire country's population lived below the poverty level. So, the markets, in general, never focused on quality because if you had to produce quality products during that time it would increase the cost of production, it would decrease your margins of profit and most importantly, because the cost of the product will increase, majority of the people will not be able to afford it eventually, resulting into a decrease in sales. So running a viable business during that time by selling quality products was practically impossible.

So, the majority of the products that were being sold in the market including milk and salt were being completed. For example, milk was being mixed with a lot of water to increase the quantity. And to compensate for the density, even harmful chemicals were used. Similarly, yellow soil was mixed with haldi (turmeric) and sawdust was mixed with dhania (coriander) powder. And just like that, even spices were being adulterated to a large extent. Because it was practically impossible for a common man to be able to understand the difference between pure spices and adulterated spices.


Number One- During that time Gulati Ji poured his blood and sweat and always made sure that his shop always sold pure spices. Because he believed that the primary intent of any business should not be to make money but to do great service. And money should always be a byproduct of great service. That is why Gulati Ji worked very hard to monitor every single process of the production of spices, just so that he can give the common man of India, a taste of pure spices. Can you imagine how difficult it would have been? He had to keep the cost low just so that he can match the cost of the adulterated spices.

Number two, He had to keep his margins very thin because his cost of production was way higher compared to adulterated spices. And most importantly he was making very less money, in spite of making the best product in the market. But all throughout these difficult times, this great man worked tirelessly with the hope that he'll be able to build a brand one day that the mother of a common household can blindly trust when she makes a meal for her family. And guess what? Slowly and steadily, people began to realize the difference between Gulati Ji's spices and the adulterated spices and soon enough people started to line up at his shop just to buy his products.

And that is how Gulati Ji's small shop- Mahashian Di Hatti Masale as in, MDH masala, became a popular brand in Delhi.


As his business started growing, he started to recruit his friends and family into his business with the hope that they will be able to stand by his belief in providing excellent quality spices to people. And he also started outsourcing a few processes like powdering turmeric.

And yet again, when everything looked well, he faced even tougher challenges and here's where ordinary people like you and me have something very important lesson to learn People, Gulati Ji was a person who did every small thing in his shop starting from the raw material transportation to the grinding of spices, he participated in every single activity and that is the reason why he soon enough became an expert in finding out even a little bit of adulteration in his spices. So, when he was scaling up he was able to maintain the same excellent quality standards that he used to maintain while he was selling spices from his small shop. And because of his sharpness and diligence, he was able to spot certain loopholes in his system which could have completely destroyed his business altogether.

Soon enough he discovered that the contractor who was powdering his turmeric was actually mixing Chana Dal to adulterate the turmeric powder. And when he spotted similar practices being followed in a lot of these outsourcing ventures. He understood that this loophole would betray the trust of his customers.

Just to keep the trust of his customers, he ended all of his outsourcing practices and poured in his entire life saving to open up his own factory wherein he could powder all the spices. And not just that. He was betrayed by his childhood friend who used to take a commission on every single material which used to come in from the supplier. And many of his friends and family who were supposed to help him grow started causing a lot of trouble, while this man was putting in his blood and sweat just to make sure that he can sell pure spices to the mothers of India.



That is how by facing a lot of hurdles Gulati Ji was able to establish a brand that the mothers of India could trust. And that is how due to the incredibly hard work of Gulati Ji, today, people like you and us have the luxury of having mouth-watering dishes like Chole Batture and Pav Bhaaji. And in this world where people talk about retiring at the age of 30 and people like you who often feel lazy in spite of achieving nothing. This legendary person was shooting for an advertisement even at the age of 97.

Because of this incredible dedication and persistence combined with extraordinary business acumen today, MDH has reached a level wherein it exports its spices to US, China, Vietnam, UAE, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UK, Germany, Singapore, Sri Lanka. With US exports alone valued at $351.6 million. And all of this put together turned Gulati Ji into one of those icons because India, today, is known for spices all across the world.


Lesson 1, we all need to realize that optimism is the faith that leads to greatness and the real test of optimism is how you choose to react even during the times of calamity just like partition in Gulati Ji's life. The optimist will try to see an opportunity in every difficulty, a pessimist will try to see difficulty even during times of great opportunity.

Lesson 2, while outsourcing is essential for scaling up of any business, it is also important to note that outsourcing along with a lot of growth will also bring in a lot of loopholes. So, as a leader of a business organization, it is important that you do all the petty work in the beginning because what might look like a petty experience, in the beginning, will eventually help you find the loopholes in your business, which could potentially destroy your whole business.

And last, each one of us needs to understand that greatness comes at a cost that very few people can afford. For example, at that time, very few people could actually settle for fewer profits by selling pure spices. Very few people had the ability to put in the hard work to have a look at every single process. just so that they could sell pure spices and keep the trust of an innocent mother when she wanted to make something tasty for her family because very few people understand that the cost of greatness cannot be paid with stacks of currency notes but with every ounce of blood and sweat that you put in to achieve it. Because at the end of the day, greatness comes at a cost of persistence.

Once a great man said that "Nothing in this world can take place of good old persistence. Talent will not, Which is why in this world there is nothing more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not, which is why unrecognized genius is practically a cliché. Education will not, which is why the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all-powerful." In our case, they were powerful enough to turn an ordinary refugee into the spice king of India who will live in our hearts forever.


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