Business and Entrepreneurship
Visual impairment: Retinitis pigmentosa
Born: April 4, 1969
"My struggle and impediments in life came more from my family than the outside world,” says Vikram Dalmia. A successful entrepreneur and cricketer, he had to fight attitudinal barriers within his family to make a mark for himself. His conviction proved him right.
He was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (R.P), (a progressive deterioration of eyesight leading to blindness) at the age of 12. His diagnosis was a shock for the family. They sought every kind of medical help to avert the eventual loss of vision that included sending him to Cuba in 1991 for latest treatment in R.P. But like many families in India, he and his family too had no knowledge about the disability and its rehabilitation and were in fact; in his words, “unaware and pretty nonchalant”.
Schooling was not much of a problem since he lost his sight after his tenth grade exams. In college, he explains, “I never told them (college authorities, professors) and they never knew about my disability”. Recounting his experience in college he says, “I would depend on my memory and friends and what more, I never knew I could have a writer during exams”. That meant writing exams all by himself! While his friend would read out the questions to him.
After graduation in 1991, his father asked him to join office (business), convinced that his son would only be there to while away time or at best follow his orders without question. But Vikram Dalmia could not accept this very attitude and so refused. Moreover, he believed that if he was to have complete authority and decision-making powers in company affairs he could run the business in a much more efficient and profitable manner.
Finally, that moment came in 1994, when the company was facing imminent closure. His father relented and gave Dalmia the opportunity to run the company. Vikram Dalmia took over the company at a juncture when his father’s plastic goods company was incurring heavy losses; he had to repay a loan of over Rs. 2 million. With in few months of his taking over, the company started earning profits, his father could repay his loans and by the year 2001, the turnover increased from 2 million to 10 million.
In 2002, Vikram Dalmia bought over a loss-making unit; ‘Plastechnics’ (an ancillary of Philips India Ltd., manufacturers in plastic covers for street lights and tube lights) with loans from market and over a period of time made it a profitable unit and is running it successfully, today. But the journey to success had its own share of hiccups. One such example was, when Philips India was organizing quality training meet for all their subsidiary companies. This meet was to have all the top managers from Philips. The Philips India personnel, to whom he was reporting periodically, wanted his father to accompany him for the meet. The apprehension was as to how a visually impaired person would interact in such a platform. He defied both of them, went all by himself and stole the show at the meet.
Be it his father’s company or his own, unlike his predecessors, his approach to running the company is refreshingly new and conducive and that is the reason why his subordinates are willing to assist him. And for the rest, he has his talking diary & computer, a laptop etc for taking notes & keeping accounts. His success mantra is simple, do your job well and show your presence – “ be a bit dashing”.Discussing the scenario in the disability sector in India, Vikram Dalmia says, “I feel that technology, and especially its availability at cheaper prices these days, has played a significant role in changing the quality of life. However, the process of spreading awareness needs to be carried on with more intensity and vigour.” His message to people is “do not write off people due to disability”. And for people who want to be successful like him, “Stay positive and focused,” he says.
Success has won him awards and recognition. Apart from business, he has been involved with the voluntary sector. He has been a part of West Bengal blind cricket team and has dabbled in mountaineering too. His family consists of a five-year-old son Nikunj and his wife.