Gardener to Entrepreneur: The man in this pic is Rambhau. He manages and maintains my house garden.
4 years back he was tilling soil on the side of a road inside my complex when a site engineer asked him if he would like to build my house garden. He hurriedly came running to me and agreed to whatever I wanted him to do and for whatever I was willing to pay. He almost did my garden for free.
He then used my garden as a show sample of his work to other houses in the complex. Within 2 years he was managing 20 house gardens. By then he had bought a motorbike. He also employed 3-4 helpers who used to visit our houses for daily maintenance. His wife was one of them.
A year later, he informed me that he has started a tempo delivery service with his son. He also won a contract to build a garden for the bungalow that the builder was building for himself in the complex. It was over 1/2 acre land. He took me there and showed me the work he was doing. I was happy.
Soon, the builder of the complex offered him the contract to maintain the trees and gardens in the entire complex. I was told that he now has 2-3 delivery vehicles and over 15 people under him.
Today he came to remodel some trees in my garden. He came in a Honda Civic, got down and got to work with the workers. He was digging the soil, uprooting trees and planting new ones. He was standing there and getting things done. Here are the pictures.
At home, Maya and I were discussing his journey from a small gardener to an established small entrepreneur in 4 years. She said why can’t others do this and I said its there in the genes. It cannot be taught. If that was the case, entrepreneurship courses would have been in hot demand across the world.
Rambhau drives a car which even his house owners don’t (like me, for example). But he maintains our gardens. He takes our instructions and delivers value to us. He has the humility to serve his customers, when in reality he could be making more money than them.
Rambhau must be in his early 50s. He was a contract worker until late 40s. Obviously entrepreneurship existed within him, but he was locked in an ecosystem that did not give him opportunities of high returns for his hard work. When he got the right platform to deliver, he seized the opportunity. He did this without any support from traditional banks. (Who would fund a gardening business?)
These are the millions of small entrepreneurs like him in India that drive the Indian economy. They get no bank or VC funding. They borrow money at high interest rates, do not understand financial ratios and repay all their debt consistently on time, while building a profitable business.
Nobel laureate, and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus said,
“To me, the poor are like Bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate.
Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on.”
Rambhau is a perfect example of this dogma of poverty that faces 80% of Indian population. Fortunately he refused to become a bonsai. He literally expanded his “flower pot” to a 200 acre campus and made enough money to afford a Honda Civic for himself. He proves that if you have the talent, the will and the willingness, 100s of ways magically appear around you – capital or no capital, education or no education.
He is not my Gardener, he is my Entrepreneur of the Year for 2016.