Kalpana Saroj, a Dalit woman who broke social shackles and left her home in the poorest part of her village 26 years ago to begin a life afresh. Today, she heads a Rs.300 crore business enterprise. Born in a poor Dalit family, Kalpana was forcibly married at the age of 12 to a man who was 10 years elder to her. She left the man in an year and came back to stay with her parents. She even tried to join the police force like her father, but was rejected. Her attempts to rebuild her broken life were thwarted by other residents of her village, Roparkheda in Maharashtra’s Akola district. They accused her of overstepping social norms and boundaries. She bore the insults for 10 years before leaving the rural slum in which her family stayed to come to Mumbai. On shifting to Mumbai, Kalpana moved to Ghatkopar. Out there, she met a man and married him. But, this happiness was short lived because he died within a few years, leaving Kalpana alone to fend for her two minor children. Undeterred by all the happenings in her life, she began managing her husband’s small steel almirah manufacturing unit, launched a construction company and with the realty sector booming, made profits. She ploughed this money into small steel and sugar units. Kalpana’s biggest challenge in her role as an entrepreneur came in the year 2006 when her firm, Kalpana Saroj and Associates, took over the ailing Kamani Tubes and turned it around to a profitable enterprise. Kamani Tubes was a brand leader in non-ferrous tubes. It was started by Mumbai’s well-known industrialist Ramji Kamani, a close associate of the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. However, a family discord affected the firm adversely. By 1975, it was on a downslide and was declared “sick” after the owners abandoned it. Later, a court allowed the workers’ union to run the company. But, this experiment failed. By 1997, the company had run into debts of over Rs.160 crore for almost a decade. In 2006 as per a court directive, Kalpana Saroj and Associates were given charge of the company, its 560 employees and the total debt burden. Kalpana took up the challenge and cleared Rs.8.5 crore in salary arrears totted up over 17 years, in an effort to boost employees’ morale. Being born and brought up in poverty in the early years of her life, she understood the hardship a worker went through when salaries are not paid on time and needed to gain her worker’s confidence before her work could proceed. Gradually, the production of Kamani Tubes resumed and touched 3,000 tonnes of non-ferrous tubes and pipes. Owing to disputes over the ownership of the 1.8-acre property in Kurla, Saroj withdrew from a long court battle and began scouting for another location outside Mumbai. With an investment of around Rs.3 billion, they decided to shift the plant to Wada. Kamani Tubes is the first in the country to install two giant-sized Pilger machines of Germany, costing Rs.100 crore. Kalpana’s next targets is taking up the Kamani production to 10,000 tons and catering to defence and communications requirements. Kalpana Saroj’s story is a rare ‘rags to riches’ story and an extremely inspiring one.