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Being blind is tough under any circumstances. But things were even harder for Srikanth Bolla who born in a small village near Hyderabad, India, where the common belief was that kids with disabilities were “useless” and even a “sin” and therefore, better off dead. Fortunately, Srikanth’s parents loved their son and refused to give in to societal pressure. Instead, they encouraged the blind boy to dream big and reach for the stars.
Srikanth did not disappoint. The now twenty-four-year-old is the founder and CEO of Bollant Industries, a successful multi-million dollar company that manufactures eco-friendly packaging. Not surprisingly, most of the company’s employees are physically challenged.
Of course, getting here was not easy. Being both blind and poor meant that Srikanth had to face some daunting challenges. As a young boy, Srikanth was enrolled in a regular school which was five-kilometers away from his home. Unfortunately, the students and teachers were not very accepting of his disability. As a result, the young boy was largely ignored and often spent the entire day alone.
Concerned that the lack of inclusion would hinder Srikanth’s academic development, his family decided to send him to a special needs school in Hyderabad. Sure enough, the young boy soon rose to the top of his class, earning awards in speech and debate competitions, creative writing, chess, and even cricket for the visually impaired. But despite his academic achievements, Srikanth was banned from studying sciences when he reached 10th grade, because it was deemed too “dangerous” for a blind student. This was a big setback since it meant that he could not take the necessary board examination to pursue his dream of becoming an engineer.
Not one to give up, Srikanth took his plea to the Indian courts and became the first visually challenged student in the country to be allowed to study sciences after 10th grade. But despite scoring 90% in the national board exams, Srikanth was not allowed to take the entrance exams for any of India’s top engineering colleges. So he decided to apply to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. Srikanth was not only welcomed with open arms, but also granted a full scholarship.
At MIT, Srikanth convinced the University’s Public Service Center to grant him funds to establish a computer training center for visually challenged students in Hyderabad. The center, which began with five students now teaches 30 blind high school students annually.
After graduating with a degree in Computer Science and Business Management, Srikanth decided to return to India and dedicate his life to helping the country’s disabled community. In 2012, he established Bollant Industries. The company’s first manufacturing plant, situated inside a tin-roof shack, comprised three machines and eight employees. In just four years, Bollant Industries has become a powerhouse with multiple manufacturing plants and over 450 employees, 70% of whom are physically challenged.
The humble 24-year-old attributes his success to his parents. Despite being poor and uneducated, they encouraged Srikanth to pursue his dreams and taught him that true happiness comes from being compassionate towards others and giving them the opportunity to excel. The young entrepreneur says, “If the world looks at me and says, ‘Srikanth, you can do nothing,’ I look back at the world and say I can do anything.” — Words that the young man lives by every single day!
Resources: spectrum.mit.edu, yourstory.com, inktalks.com,indiatimes.com