Meet Dharampal Gulati, who’s fondly known as ‘Dada ji’ or ‘Mahashaya ji’ among MDH employees. We see this 94-year sprightly old man sporting a bright ‘Rajasthani turban’ promoting his MDH masala (an Indian spice) brand all the time. He’s visually familiar to a majority of people, especially the homemakers that follow daily soaps and television commercials on-screen. But, what’s different about Dharampal Gulati? Not many of us know that he was the highest paid CEO in FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) of 2016.
How Gulati Transformed from a mere ‘Tangawala’ to a High-Profile Entrepreneur Leading a Well-Known Brand in India
Gulati never got a chance to complete his formal education. Due to financial restrictions, he dropped out from school in the fifth grade and started a small shop in Sialkot (Pakistan) with his father Chuni Lal in 1919. The father-son duo tried their luck in mirror, soap, cloth, hardware, rice and carpentry business, finally settling down for spices.
After the partition, the family was compelled to give up their belongings and had to relocate to Karol Bagh in Delhi, where he set up a small provision store to make two ends meet. Dharampal just had Rs. 1,500 at that time. Out of this, he used Rs. 650 to purchase a Tanga (a buggy pulled by horses) and drove it near Jarol Bag, New Delhi Railway Station, Bara Hindu Rao and Qutub Minar to earn his living.
Having collected sufficient money for the new business, he bought a small wooden shop at Ajmal Khan Road, Karol Bagh, where he revived his paternal business of ground spices. He named it as ‘Mahashian di Hatti of Sialkot” (that’s how the acronym MDH came into existence later). In time, Sialkot’s “Deggi Mirch wale” became quite popular in Odhisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.
Having toiled endlessly for 60 years straight, Dharampal succeeded in raising a 1500 crore empire. They export spices in London, Dubai and about 100 more countries. As of now, his son handles overall operation of the company whereas the six daughters manage region wise distribution of spices.
Since then, the Gulatis have opened up 15 factories (that supply spices to 1000 dealers), 20 schools, a hospital and several outlets all over the world. The Dada ji holds 80% stake in his company. The man sincerely inspects the markets, factories and dealer outlets every day, including the Sundays until he’s satisfied regarding the quality of goods being supplied to the market.
It wasn’t surprising when he revealed his last drawn salary that was Rs. 21 crore. The shocking fact is that it’s higher than the income of bigshots like Vivek Gambhir, Adi Godrej and Sanjiv Mehta.
Recently, MDH that supplies about 60 products in the market, reported an annual jump in revenues by 15% and a 24% increase in net profit. The total revenue of MDH amounts to Rs. 924 crores whereas the profit earned by the company was Rs. 213 crores.
Thus, the journey of 90-year old, class V dropout Dharampal Gulati is no less than a Cinderella story! Despite being a senior citizen, ‘Dada ji’ continues to inspire us with his energetic attitude and dynamic persona.