The most important thing in our life is to have a definite will that inspires us to see a dream and a direction which leads us to realize that dream. It is however generally seen that people with lack of facility and access to essentials hesitate to aim for something bigger, owing to their circumstantial fallacy to underestimate themselves and thus check their promising career with a confounded farrago of doubt and uncertainty. It is indeed not necessary to have everything at our disposal. The crucial point it to exploit whatever we have to its fullest extent possible. There have always been great men and women who, though found themselves in utmost dire circumstances, fought their way to make the most of their lots and got what they deserved. We know about people like Vidyasagar who studied under streetlights and Dr. Kalam who belonged to an equally low-income family. But these people were determined in their mind to get where they wanted to.
The person we are here going to throw light on is another such person, Sarathbabu Elumalai, who is a glaring specimen of dedicated struggle leading to heights of success. Sarathbabu Elumalai is not just the protagonist of a true underdog story; he is also an inspiration for those who come from such humble backgrounds. Despite being born to an impoverished family, Sarath dared to go after his entrepreneurial dream. Today, he is an established entrepreneur and proud owner of ‘Foodking’, the franchise which has branches in many cities across the country.
In 1979, Sarathbabu was born in a slum of Madipakkam, a suburb of South Indian city Chennai. He was a brother of two elder sisters and two younger brothers. Their mother was the sole earning member of the family. She used to sell idlis in the mornings and then would work for the mid-day meal at the school during the daytime. And, in the evenings, she taught at the adult education program of the Indian government. Born in a deprived family, Sarathbabu was exposed to the harsh realities of life from the very beginning and witnessed his mother’s drudgery to bring up five kids on her small income.
Sarath received his schooling from Kings Matriculation Higher Secondary School. He was a brilliant pupil throughout his school days and used to top successive years. After completing his school education, he came to know about BITS, Pilani. It seemed promising that he would get admission owing to his shining academic records. There was also a genuine chance that on completion of studies at Pilani, he would get a job that would help her mother to a great extent. However, as Sarath’s family background was financially much weaker, he had to pawn his sister’s jewelry to pay his first semester fees. Even though after the first term it was the scholarship that helped him through, that was never enough, and he had to borrow money for lodging and food.
In the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani
Sarath’s college days were his formative period. He worked hard for the engineering exhibition during the first year. He did a lot of labour-intensive work like welding and cutting, though his subject was Chemical Engineering. This brought him appreciation from his seniors there. The following year also he worked dedicatedly for the engineering exhibition. This time even his juniors came to appreciate his job, and they became acquainted with him. This led to Sarath’s unanimously election to the post of the coordinator for the exhibition in his third year. It was also quite an experience for him to handle around 100 students. Seeing his efficient handling and managing of his team, his batch mates told him that he could be a good manager and suggested him to go for MBA. That moment Sarath came to know about MBA and then was quite charmed with the idea of it.
But, his mother was waiting for her engineer son to get a job, pay all the debts, buy a house, and look after her. So he went for a campus interview and got a job with Polaris. Though he also sat for CAT, but could not clear it in the first attempt.
He then worked for 30 months at Polaris. By then, he could pay off all the debts, but he hadn’t bought a decent house for my mother. But, the idea to start his venture had by then seized his heart, and he was much eager to pursue it now. Sarath qualified CAT in the third attempt and got calls from all the six IIMs, and of them, he chose IIM, Ahmedabad.
Becoming an Entrepreneur
His college helped him get a scholarship for the two years that he was at IIM. By the end of the 2nd year, there came many lucrative job offers, but he was determined to start something of his own. It was a difficult decision when he rejected a Rs 8 lakhs annum offer from a reputed company. But he was clear in his mind even while he knew the hard realities back home.
While preparing for the CAT, Sarath read in the papers that 30% of India’s population was unable to afford two meals a day. This harsh reality of with he was too acquainted with, struck him now even more and he wanted to do something for this.
He also read about giant enterprises and their founders. Reliance employed around 25,000 people at that time, and Infosys, around 15,000. Sarath calculated that when a single entrepreneur like Ambani employed 25,000 people, he was supporting the family of each employee. So he was taking care of over one lakh people indirectly. Sarath felt that he too should become an entrepreneur.
Foodking Catering Services Pvt Ltd
Most certainly inspired by his mother’s selling idlis, Sarathbabu resolved to set up a food chain. Then, of course, his experience as the mess secretary at IIM proved crucial. Some friends came to his aid with registering the company with a capital of Rs 100,000. Because of his IIM affiliation, he could take a loan from the bank without any problem.
Sarath started his enterprise, Foodking, with a vision to offer employment to illiterate and semi-illiterate people. Foodking became operative from May 16th, 2006 by supplying snacks to some corporate sectors, banks, and other firms. It sooner started accepting Event Catering, Industrial Catering, and Institutional Catering. The company now also has retail outlets. Today, Foodking Catering Services provides services at reputed institutions like BITS-Pilani, IIM,-Ahmedabad, SRM-Chennai and many others and has a huge turnover.
An ethical businessman
Suffered poverty all through his life, Sarathbabu wants to employ as many people as he can, so that he could improve their lives. His aim is to cover all the major cities in India, and later, he even wants to go around the world too.
In 2010, Sarath initiated the Hunger Free India, an endeavor to feed poor folks.
Even money as a personal advantage is not his concern. The only personal interest of his life is to give his mother a comfortable living.
A politically conscious person
Sarathbabu is also involved in political affairs. Seeing the poverty and illiteracy, Sarath Babu decided to enter the arena during the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections. He fought as an independent candidate from the Chennai South constituency and managed to secure over 15,000 votes. It was a moment of surprise that despite coming from a non-political or influential background, Sarath got so many votes and that in his first election. He also joined a regional party but quitted later. In 2011, he ran for Assembly Elections again as an Independent candidate.
He is indeed someone who is concerned about people’s welfare in his area. He wants to improve employment opportunities and provide education to all. Top on his list of agendas, though, is poverty alleviation. The results of his elections, though consisting of successive losses, still have been better for a man of his profile and he continues to be active in regional politics.
Awards and Recognition
For his extraordinary effort to employ crude people and starting an initiative like Foodking, Sarathbabu has received much praise from all over. Among the best compliments he has received, notable are the ones coming from Narayana Murthy of Infosys and his director at IIM, Ahmedabad.
In 2008, Sarathbabu was awarded Pepsi-MTV youth icon. The same year, he got Example to Youth Award. Later, in 2010, he was honored with RITZ Chennai Youth Icon. A year after that, for his marvelous business inception, he got CNN-IBN Award for Young Indian Leader. For his remarkable feat in the field of commerce, Sarath has been made Honorary Alumnus in Xavier School of Management, Jamshedpur.