Srikanth Bolla, the founder and CEO of the Hyderabad-based Bollant Industries, just made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. You’d think that he’d be celebrating. He’s not. He says he’s not going to be patting himself on the back till he’s on the Forbes Billionaires List. Then, he’ll celebrate. Now, if someone makes a comment like that, you’d think, “Capitalist A*!” But Srikanth is truly the opposite. He’s lead a tough life so far and finally built a company that solves several pressing issues.
His company, Bollant Industries, makes biodegradable plates and bowls under the brand name Areca. It also manufactures disposable paper plates, cups, napkins and bowls, and some pretty sturdy bio-degrable and eco-friendly packaging material. The website claims “the ply corrugated boxes have high tensile strength, are completely eco-friendly, bio-degradable, can hold liquid for 3-4 hours and can be easily be molded into different shapes and sizes.”
In a nutshell, here are the problems Bolla and Bollant are solving:
Bollant's manufacturing process involves sourcing the Areca plant and making the plates and other products in the factory. Except for growing the Areca plant, pretty much everything is done in house. Aadhar Farm, Paapco, Eco Friendly Products and Save Globe also manufacture similar products, but Bollant does it in larger quantities and uses economies of scale to bring prices down. (If you look at this product on ShopClues, it is four times more expensive than what Bollant is offering.) The manufacturing process is simple — the leaves are cleaned, then soaked in water and cut into shape while being heated. A biodegradable plate from the 'quality one' category costs Rs 5.50 per piece, the 'quality two' category plate costs Rs 6.50.
Bolla and his company have both come a long way. Bollant Industries began as a little shed under a tin roof, with eight employees and three machines in 2012. In 2015, they raised $2-million (around Rs 13 crores) in funding. These folks are fast! Angel investor Ravi Mantha was so impressed with Srikanth that he invested in Bollant Industries straight away and even chose to mentor him. The company is pro-reservation. It also aims to hire 70 percent staff that is physically challenged. The larger aim is to bring people from all walks of life together and end their isolation.
Srikanth himself has transformed. He used to be that boy who is relegated to the last bench in class because of his disability. Then after school, even though he got a cool 90 percent, he was told he can’t opt for science subjects. He had to go to court, just to be able to study science! If that weren’t enough, after his Class XII board exams, he received rather cold-hearted letters from engineering colleges, saying he can’t appear for the engineering entrance exam because he's visually challenged. Thankfully, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) accepted him. I guess that rejection was god-sent. Why go to IIT, when you can go to MIT, right?
But it wasn’t just engineering colleges, a whole bunch of people didn’t like having Srikanth Bolla around. When he was born, his parents’ friends told them that being born blind was a sin and that they should smother him. “He’s useless,” they were told repeatedly. Thankfully, his parents didn’t listen to any of that advice. He believes he’s a super lucky guy, not because he’s a millionaire but because his parents brought him up with so much love, never thinking of him as a “burden”.
Apart from his incredible story, what differentiates Srikanth from other successful companies is his purpose. He not only wants to do something good for the environment, he want to make people rich — his employees, partners and vendors. He doesn’t want to step on people to get to the top faster. “Compassion is a way of showing someone to live; to give someone an opportunity to thrive and make them rich. Richness does not come from money, it comes from happiness,” he had said in an interview. Cliched perhaps, but true.