If a rags-to-riches story ends on a comfortable note, it’s not really a rags-to-riches story. The Arun Dev Builders Managing Director, Manoj Bhardwaj, is a subject of such struggle. He is a man of sheer will, focus, and dedication. Sacrificingblood, sweat, and tears, he single-handedly raised a real estate empire. Ironically, Manoj did not have a concrete roof over his head once. Poverty drove him to pick up the shovel and change the situation in the housing industry.

His father was an honest government officer who held a strong stance against corruption. Unfortunately, the crooked system failed his father. Refusal to let go off a corrupt businessman cost his old man his job. The shock of suspension was too much to bear. As a result, Manoj Bhardwaj’s father lost both of his kidneys when Manoj was taking his metric exams. The cost of healthcare and medicine drained his pockets. Manoj Bhardwaj had to make the ends meet somehow.

To support his family financially, Manoj Bhardwaj drove an autorickshaw. He used to earn Rs 300 daily, out of which he saved Rs 100. The rest would go to his mother to cover the daily expenses. After saving enough, he invested in a Matador van that increased his margin of expenses and reserves by Rs 10,000. By the time Manoj Bhardwaj reached 12th grade, he made enough to install cable television, which was quite rare in the 90s.

The idea of Arun Dev Builders started to take shape when Manoj Bhardwaj set up a ‘Kancha’ factory(remember those lemon drinks with a marble popping caps?). The deliveries of kancha to reris (stalls on wheels) brought him to a slum in Govindpuri. He was appalledby the quality of life where people lived in cramped spaces. The open defecation, dirty kitchens, and awful smell in the vicinity still linger in his mind. He wanted to help these people by some means.

Fate charted him a way. By the age of 18, he bought a plot with his Kancha business’ profit. The plot faced a huge drain. A mixture of luck and ingenuity prompted him to sell that plot to a dye crew. The turnover was quite attractive. With the profit, he bought more such plots and ended up developing a whole colony. The poor could afford these plots easily since they were required to pay in installments. Back then, these plots cost around Rs 10 -15 lakh. Currently, these plots cost more than Rs 1 crore.

Manoj Bhardwaj branded his growing real estate business as Arun Dev Builders in 1997. He soon acquired his first project, Defence Enclave, on NH24 under the new banner. Arun Dev Builders took flight and many real estate projects were established. The zeal to grow was real but it came with a cost that would make Manoj Bhardwaj pay a hefty amount.

Arun Dev Builders had a lot of agreements signed. NOCs were on its way but then politics and bureaucracy caught up with this wonderful brainchild of Manoj Bhardwaj. All the agreements were suddenly cancelled by the authority as the state government experienced a struggle. A lot of capital went to waste because of this cancellation, and Arun Dev Builders were forced sell their assets to reimburse the customers. Still, there was a debt of Rs 10-20 crores to be paid.

Like Japan after World War II, Arun Dev Builders came back with a bang. The company started making profit by 2005 by developing cheap residential units all across India. This was the highlight of ManojBhardawaj’sentrepreneurial journey. Several ‘Arun Dev Cities’ were developed that offered affordable housing. The prosperity was cut short yet again by a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an activist that attacked malpractices of the big fishes in the Indian real estate. Somehow, Arun Dev Builders was caught in that swirl. Customers started to lose their trust in the brand asManoj Bhardwaj was put behind bars for a really short time.As of now, Arun Dev Builders has paid back 90% of its customers and is on the road towards recovery.

“Before I die, I want the underprivileged to live in puccahomes and not jhuggis”, says an inspirited Manoj Bhardwaj. He adds, “By 2020, we will establish industrial townships across the country that will provide employment and education to the poor. No one will have to die or pick up a gun to satiate hunger”.

Author's Bio: 

Torsi Utley is a professional blogger.