The life journey of Subrata Roy is no less than an inspirational novel. Roy, who heads the multi-million business conglomerate Sahara Group, had started off his career with just Rs 20.
Subrata Roy’s father hailed from Araria, Bihar, but the family was settled in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Roy was the second child, and the family stayed in a rented house in Gorakhpur’s Turkmanpur area.
While Subrata Roy was pursuing his diploma in mechanical engineering from the Government Technical Institute in Gorakhpur, death snatched away his father Sudhir Chandra. The onus of running the family now lay on the young shoulders of Roy. He started doing odd jobs to support his family.
Roy sold salted snacks on a Lambretta scooter, and called his venture ‘Jaya Products’. The scooter now stands in a glass cubicle at the company’s headquarters Sahara Bhawan in Lucknow’s Aliganj. Someone who takes pride in his humble roots, Mr Roy has kept the two-wheeler as a reminder of the difficult times that he had seen.
Successful people don’t do new things. They do things differently. A maverick at heart, Subrata Roy set up Sahara in 1978. That was the foundation stone of his global empire that stands tall today. His business model was based on para-banking: his venture collected small deposits from millions of poor workers who had no access to formal banking services. Roy invited tea-stall owners, rickshaw-pullers, small shop-owners and the like to invest just Re 1 daily in Sahara India Financial, the group’s flagship firm.
Roy’s banking idea clicked so well with the masses that in three decades, it grew into India’s largest residuary non-banking company. This was the business idea of a man, whom a nationalized bank in Gorakhpur didn’t offer loan of just Rs 5,000 loan to start his venture.
Subrata Roy witnessed a golden ear around the 80s, when his business grew by leaps and bounds. By the 90s, Sahara was ready to go on a huge level. A business that started by serving the rural poor, it grew into this enormous conglomerate with extensive media network, a commercial airline called Air Sahara, and properties in the global premium hospitality segment (New York’s landmark Plaza Hotel and London’s Grosvenor House Hotel). Roy sold Air Sahara to Jet Airways in 2006 for over $500 million.
An avid sports lover, Subrata Roy also owned an IPL cricket team, the Pune Warriors. He continued to sponsor the Indian cricket team till December 2013. Sahara still continues to sponsors the Indian hockey team.
At present, the Sahara India Pariwar is India’s largest private-sector employer, with over 1 million employees and agents. In 2004, the group was termed by the Time magazine as ‘the second largest employer in India’ after the Indian Railways.