Awards Category: Business Founder/Owner
Mr Srikanth Bolla
CEO of Bollant Industries
Srikanth Bolla is the co-founder of Bollant Industries, a sustainable packaging and disposable products company that provides employment opportunities for differently-abled and uneducated individuals. He was inspired to start “feasible commercial venture, with the underlying objective to create large scale employment opportunities for differently-abled persons” because of his own history. Bolla was born blind, and overcame personal and societal obstacles to become the first blind international student to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He decided to return to India to make a difference in his home country, initially starting the Samanvai Centre for Children with Disabilities to nurture, rehabilitate and integrate differently-abled persons into society, before starting Bollant Industries in 2012. The Samanvai Centre has so far helped more than 3000 students acquire education and vocational rehabilitation. “The world has told me what I cannot do”, he says. “I look back at the world and say I can do anything”.
Creating a Better Future
Bollant Industries was launched in 2012 to create employment opportunities for millions for differently-abled people, many of whom have limited access to education. Bolla and his former special-needs teacher/mentor pooled several lakhs of rupees (1 lakh = 100,000), and received additional startup funding from Ratan Tata. The company has since had additional funding from Peepul Capital, Satish Reddy and angel investor Ravi Mantha.
Bollant Industries has manufacturing units in Hyderabad, Nizamabad and Hubli which create disposable and compostable packaging solutions and paper-based products, including leaf plates, disposable plates, corrugated paper and duplex board, as well as raw materials for the paper products and disposable products industries. They are soon to open a fourth manufacturing plant in Andhra Pradesh, which will be entirely solar powered.
Bollant Industries employs around 450 staff in their manufacturing plants, and will employ another 400 in the new plant. Over 60% of their staff are differently-abled, and the company has as one of its key values that “everyone counts”. “Compassion,” Bolla says, “is not about giving a coin to a beggar at the traffic signal. It’s showing somebody the way to live and giving them the opportunity to thrive.”
Bolla was born blind, and individuals in his home village told his parents to abandon him at birth due to his disability. His parents refused, and encouraged him to take part in schooling, eventually enrolling him in a special needs school in Hyderabad. Bolla graduated top of his class in Year 10, but was refused permission to study science due to his blindness. He petitioned the government for six months, and was finally allowed to study science “at his own risk”. Bolla scored 98% in his final exams but was rejected from IIM for his disability, before being accepted into MIT and Harvard, amongst others. He was the first international blind student to graduate from MIT.
Bollant Industries has turnover of more than Rs. 10 crore (1 crore = 10 million), and the new facility is anticipated to bring in another Rs. 60 crore per annum. Company revenue is predicted to increase to Rs. 100 crore within two years. Currently, it exports 10-15% of its production to countries including the US, Australia and Germany, and expects exports to increase to 50% of revenue by 2018. Bolla’s long term goal is to take the company to an IPO and he is raising US$2 million in funding to achieve that goal.