Friday, July 22, 2011

[ZESTCaste] The rise of Dalit enterprise: Entrepreneur Sushil Patil

22 Jul, 2011, 05.25AM IST, Tapash Talukdar,ET Bureau
The rise of Dalit enterprise: Entrepreneur Sushil Patil

When you stay in a 200 sq ft shanty and fail at 20 businesses, there
is only one way you can go: up. The transformation for Sushil Patil ,
37, has been dramatic. He now lives in a glass-fronted, threestoried,
3,000 sq ft house in the tony Nagpur locality of Manish Nagar; and he
owns and runs a Rs 280 crore company that does engineering consultancy
and project work.

Till 2003, Patil knew only losses. From poultry to software, broking
to services, the civil engineer from Nagpur University dabbled in
every conceivable business. And as Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani
says, learnt 20 ways of avoiding mistakes. Setbacks were nothing new
for Patil. From an early age, he was witness to financial strain and
caste prejudice. Like the day his father had to request the
engineering college to waive Patil's finalyear fees. "I can never
forget my father bowing before the dean. That hit me hard," says
Patil. He also recalls the discrimination his father, Ramrao Patil,

Senior Patil was as a labourer in an ordnance factory; and, after
office hours, he sold snacks in the office to feed his family of four.
Still, he once went 15 years without apromotion. "His colleagues, who
were from upper castes, received regular pay hikes and other
benefits," he says. This humiliation made Patil resolve to have his
own venture. After completing his civil engineering in 1995, Patil
worked for several construction firms. "I never wanted to work under
anyone, and soon quit," he says. In 1996, Patil borrowed Rs 1 lakh
from a friend and started a stock-broking firm.

But the venture failed because he knew little about the business. In
1999, Patil started cleaning overhead tanks. That too went bust -- he
lost Rs 1 lakh and was saddled with a Rs 7 lakh liability. In 2000, he
sunk Rs 1 lakh in the poultry business. His experience with running a
software-development firm was similar. "I had no money, but I somehow
survived," he says. Patil returned to his calling: engineering. This
time, though, he played safe. He worked for a small firm for six
months and learned project-implementation strategies.

In 2003, using the last Rs 5,000 of his savings, he started IEPC, an
engineering services firm. Today, that company provides engineering,
procurement and construction (EPC) services to power companies
--basically, assembling a power plant --and handles projects worth Rs
2,000 crore. Its beginnings were small. In its first year, IEPC bagged
an engineering and designing feasibility project for a 8 MW plant in
Rayapati, Chhattisgarh, through a friend's reference. The one thing
Patil did from the outset was to structure the terms of a project such
that it offered him an advance to take care of his initial costs
related to designing engineering layouts and modules.

His big break came in 2008, when he was asked to do a
techno-feasibility project for a 108 MW, gas-based power plant of
NDPL, jointly commissioned by the Tata Group and Delhi government. "I
put my best engineers on the job and submitted the report in 45 days,"
he says. "That helped us secure bigger projects."

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