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Mahashian Di Hatti, the spice shop, today more relevant as MDH, was set up in Sialkot, now a part of Pakistan, in 1919 by Mahashay Chunnilal. They momentarily gained popularity as ‘Deggi Mirchiwale’, the ‘pot chilli people’ for their bright red chilli powder, which was medium hot.
The Humble Beginning
However, the family shifted to Delhi during the partition and initially struggled to establish the same business in India. It was Chunnilalji’s son, Mahashay Dharampal Gulati, who turned this non-existent business (in India) into a Rs 1500 crore leading spice brand globally. This 5th standard dropout, self-made billionaire, lovingly known as Mahashay ji or dadaji, initially rode a ‘tanga’ carrying passengers from CP to Karol Bagh for 2 annas. The money which he earned in two months was spent on setting up a shop in Prahlad Market, Delhi, in 1950. They grinded spices manually and started selling them in packaged form.
Their second shop was rented in Khari Baoli in 1953. Though, initially they began with manual grinding of spices, MDH soon shifted over to automated machines to meet the growing demand of the products. Hence, their first factory was established at the Karol Bagh building in 1954, which still serves as MDH’s 2016-17 Today MDH’s products are exported to over 100 countries globally The organization credits prosperity of the company to its supply chain - from contract farming to sourcing of spices from Karnataka and Rajasthan to Afghanistan and Iran.
In 1966, they started expanding the brand outside India. Today, MDH has offices in Dubai and London and fares 40 to 50 products to around 100 nations. Their major international contributors are the USA, UAE, Canada and UK. More than 15-20 per cent of their revenue is generated from these countries. The company has seen a multi-fold growth since its inception with over 2500 staff.
Any trusted face is a brand for daily utility items and this 94-year-old old man of his words with grand red turban has very well justified this fact. Mahashayji himself designed the packaging and decided to enter the frame as the brand-ambassador of MDH as according to him, he himself was the reason behind the success of the product. Today, Mahashayji’s son, Rajiv Gulati, is the MD of MDH company and sits in the Gurugram factory and his five daughters, Pratibha, Kiran, Suman, Sushma and Minakshi look after the distribution and sales of various regions.
Still Going Strong
Even at this age, Mahashayji does not want to lead retired life. He still strives to work hard and diligently. According to him, he still hasn’t reached the zenith; there is more to MDH’s growth. MDH is coming up with more spices adding to their existing range with an all-together new packaging. They are also planning to come into the ready-to-eat food category soon. Mahashay Ji firmly believes that “commitment to humanity, community and relentless activities can help outshine any person in his/her careers and business.”
(This article was first published in the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)