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Meet Srikanth Bolla: Denied the IIT dream due to blindness but built a multi-crore business

Born visually-challenged, Srikanth’s parents were advised to leave him in an orphanage. Today, he's an industrialist recording hundred crore turnover.

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The story of industrialist Srikanth Bolla is the stuff of bestsellers. Born visually-challenged, Srikanth’s parents were advised to leave him in an orphanage. Some even advised his parents to let the baby die.

Born into a farming family, no one knew that Srikanth would one day reach unprecedented heights to get education from one of the world’s most prestigious institutions before going on to become a dynamic industrialist churning a hundred-crore turnovers and employing hundreds of peoples. However, the path to success was filled with struggles due to his blindness and lack of resources.

Srikanth was born in 1992 in the village of Seetharamapuram in Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The 29-year-old industrialist was ignored by teachers and the society as a child. He was made to sit at the back of the class and made to feel invisible. But his parents fought with one and all for their son and instilled the same fighting spirit in him. Srikanth once recollected in an interview, “My parents, Damodar Rao and Venkatamma were devastated that their baby was born blind. But at every stage, from the time they initiated me into a school in a rural area, they had to fight the system. Having faced challenges at every stage during my education, I always had the urge to do something differently.”

He had to fight with the government to earn the right to study science. After a six month wait, he was allowed to study science at his own risk. Srikanth surpassed everyone’s expectations when he scored 98% in his class 12 board exams. Still, the society refused to believe in his potential.

After completing pre-university exams, Srikanth tried to pursue the IIT dream but was rejected by the coaching institutes which are essential for cracking the tough JEE entry exam. Not one to be bogged down by setbacks, Srikanth applied to the prestigious MIT, the US-based top technology schools and got selected become not just the first Indian blind student at MIT but the school’s first International blind student as well.

After completing his studies, Srikanth has the chance to stay back in the US, and create a comfortable life for himself in the land of opportunities. However, he had his heart set on coming back and doing something in his country and for his countrymen.

Srikanth returned to India and founded his company, Bollant Industries, in 2012. His talent and passion for entrepreneurship was spotted by Ratan Tata who didn’t just take Srikanth under his wing for mentoring, but also invested in his company. Bollant Industries, which manufactures packaging solutions grew from strength to strength. With exceptional 20% month-on-month average growth, the company reportedly climbed to a turnover of Rs 150 crore by 2018. Srikanth’s industrial empire has 5 manufacturing plants and employs more than 650 people, with around half of the workforce coming from differently-abled individuals.

In 2017, Srikanth was named as one of the only three Indians in the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list. The industrialist has won a number of other recognitions like the CII Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year 2016, ECLIF Malaysia Emerging Leadership Award.

In 2006, he was among students being addressed by India’s former President late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam during a speech. On the missile man’s question ‘What do you want to become in life?’, Srikanth Bolla had answered, “I want to be the first visually challenged President of India”.

The MIT journal once quoted Srikanth as saying, “I want to dedicate my life to community and social service. I want a place in society where people look up to me as a role model and great leader”.

In a country where almost 2.21% of the population is differently-abled, Srikanth Bolla is an icon and example of inspiring success against all odds.

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