Rags To Riches – Lakshmi Niwas Mittal


Lakshmi Niwas Mittal was born on June 15, 1950 in Sadalpur town in Rajasthan to a traditional Marwari business family. He is the chairman and CEO of Arcelor Mittal, the world’s largest steelmaking company. Called the Steel Baron of India or sometimes Carnegie of Calcutta, he is an Indian born who is settled in United Kingdom. In 2017 Mittal has been ranked as world’s 56th richest man and 2nd richest Indian.

Early Life

Lakshmi Mittal studied at Shri Daulatram Nopany Vidyalaya, Kolkata from 1957 to 1964 and later graduated from the St. Xavier’s College, University of Calcutta with a degree in accounting and business. In his college days he used to help his family in running a small steel business, Nippon Denro Ispat. In 1976, realizing the limiting policies and potential in India, the 26-year-old Mittal moved to Indonesia and opened his first steel factory Ispat Indo there.


Right from the beginning of his business, Lakshmi Mittal had a vision to be a global player. The highlight of his success remained his ability to buy the loss making companies and then turn them around into profitable ventures. He started acquiring companies in Canada and Germany, but his biggest breakthrough and very strategic investment came when he acquired Karmet Steel Works in Kazakhstan, part of former Soviet republic at that time sharing its border with China which witnessed a huge surge of steel demand in those days.

In 2004 he formed Mittal Steel through the merger of Ispat International and LNM holdings. In 2006 he took over European Steel giant Arcelor at a cost of approximately $33 billion and merged it with Mittal Steel and formed Arcelor Mittal. It is only company in world to cross 100 million tons of steel production. His steel empire employs more than 3,00,000 employees and is present in 60 countries worldwide. But due to falling prices and reduced demand, company’s operating income and profits had been falling consistently. Only in February 2017 company announced its first annual profits in five years.

Personal Life

Lakshmi Mittal is an Indian citizen based at London, United kingdom. He is married to Usha Mittal and is blessed with two children, son Aditya and daughter Vanisha. Mittal is known for his lavish lifestyle and his buying palatial houses and daughter’s marriage remained some of the most talked about events in their time.

In 1996 he received the ‘Steel Maker of the Year’ award from New Steel. In 2005, Forbes ranked Mittal as the third richest person in the world. In 2006 The Sunday Times  named him “Business Person of 2006”, the Financial Times named him “Person of the Year”, and Time magazine named him “International News maker of the Year 2006”. In 2007, he was considered to be the richest Asian person in Europe. Indian government awarded him with Padma Vibhushan in 2007. He received ‘Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 2008 from Forbes magazine. In 2017, Forbes ranked him as the 56th richest person in the world with a net worth of US$16.4 billion. He is also the “57th-most powerful person” of the 72 individuals named in Forbes’ “Most Powerful People” list for 2015.

Related article: Rags To Riches – Phil Knight


Rags To Riches – Phil Knight

Phil Knight

“Play by the rules, but be ferocious”

Born on February 24, 1938 in Portland, Oregon, Phil Knight is the founder of Nike. His success story is not exactly a typical rags to riches story. His father, Bill Knight was a publisher of Oregon journal and earned decent amount to raise his family providing all the basic comforts and education of his children, so Phil didn’t started as dirt poor but the success he achieved was not due to resources but because of his never say die attitude. As he said:

“Make history or be a part of it.”

Early Life

Phil Knight graduated from University of Oregon in Eugene and earned a master’s degree from Stanford. He completed a yearlong service in U.S. Army at Fort Lewis and Fort Eustis. Right from his youth he wanted to leave a mark on the world and as he wrote in his book Shoe Dog, he wanted his life to be play. In his final classes while studying, he wrote a research paper about shoes and soon it became an obsession for him. So much so that he decided to start a career in selling shoes for which he sold his car and got the rest financed by his father.


Phil Knight gave wings to his ambition when he started importing tiger shoes from Onitsuka shoe factory in Japan. He initially named his company Blue Ribbon. For the first few samples he borrowed 50 USD from his father and started his company with his running coach Bill Bowerman as partner in April 1964 from back of his car. In the first year itself the sales were $8000. For Knight it was not selling but believing in the product. Blue Ribbon grew fast and within two years they opened their first ever retail store. During this initial time Knight attracted an inner circle of employees who were extremely dedicated and equally passionate like him about running and shoes. Though they were tight on budget most of the times, they were high on enthusiasm for what they were doing.

Ironically the banks did not want to finance him as the growth in the sales was fast and it impacted the cash flow. They wanted that he sacrifice growth and go for stability, an idea which never found favor with Knight. He used to say, “Life is growth. You grow or you die.” Since he did not draw any salary in first few years so that he didn’t became a liability on the Blue Ribbon, he worked part time as accountant at Price Waterhouse. This also helped him in learning how companies sold their things and what were the trouble areas. This education became very useful in running of his own company.

There was always a challenge that their supplier, Onitsuka was most often behind schedule for the deliveries and their first priority was their local market in Japan. At the same time they were looking to appoint some other distributor with more financial muscle. The problem grew severe and forced Knight to think about something that can end his dependence on the Japanese company and in such circumstances Nike was born.

Knight renamed Blue Ribbons as Nike after his Japanese suppliers went back on the agreements. He sourced other factories for quality shoes and poured all his expertise and innovation in the new brand. The company grew leaps and bounds due to dedicated and passionate employees and customers. By 1980 it attained 50% share of the U.S. athletic shoe market. On December 2, 1980 Nike went public. Today Nike has an extended product range including various sports shoes, apparels, sports equipment and street fashion.

Personal Life

Knight married his coworker Penelope Parks on September 13, 1968. The couple was blessed with two sons and a daughter, Matthew, Travis and Christina. In May 2004 his elder son Matthew died due to heart attack while scuba diving. Soon after Knight resigned as CEO of Nike on November 18, 2004. His younger son Travis is an animator and CEO of animation company and studio Laika.

Knight has been active as an philanthropist. He donated US$105 million to Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2006. In 2016 Knight-Hennessy Scholars graduate level program was started with his US$400 million contribution. He has also donated to Oregon University, UO Athletic Legacy Fund, Oregon Health and Science University

Knight has received several accolades for his philanthropy and other contributions in the field of business and corporate leadership. He has also written his memoir with the name ‘Shoe Dog’. In November, 2015 Forbes named Knight as the 15th richest person in the world. His net worth as of June, 2017 is 24.9 billion USD

Related article: Rags To Riches – Andrew Carnegie

Rags To Riches – Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspire your hopes”Andrew Carnegie

Born on November 25, 1835 in Scotland, Andrew Carnegie is a true example of rags to riches story that inspires everybody. He was born to a poor hand-loom weaver, who with sheer hard work and business acumen went on to become the richest person in the world. He is one of the person who have been credited as the “builders” of America.

Early Life

His family migrated to the Allegheny, Pennsylvania, US in 1848 where he took a job as a worker in a cotton mill changing spools of thread. His next job was as a telegraph messenger boy. From the early age he was very interested in reading books. His uncle introduced him to the writings of Robert Burns and William Wallace which deeply influenced him. Later when Colonel James Anderson opened his own personal library of 400 volumes to working boys each Saturday night, his passion for reading and education got a big boost. He was so impressed with the impact of books and education that when he got wealthy and started philanthropic activities, donating to libraries became his main focus.

In 1853 he started working as telegraph operator in Pennsylvania Railroad Company. By 1859 with his hard work he rose to the position of superintendent. This was the job that gave him his first lessons of management and cost control, which later turned out to be very vital for his success. He started investing in the companies known through his inside contacts and slowly accumulated capital, the basis of his later success.

Success Story

During the time of civil war (1860-1865) there was a huge demand for iron products, Carnegie worked to establish a steel rolling mill. After this the steel production became the source of his fortune. He named his company Keystone Bridge Company and made handsome profits by getting contracts through his old acquaintances in the railroads. He made some great innovations in the steel industry by adapting Bessemer process for steel making. In 1880’s he bought some of his competitors and later merged with his own company and formed Carnegie Steel Company.

In 1901 he retired after selling Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480 million. This amount was equivalent to $13.8 billion in 2016.

Personal Life

Carnegie was so close to his mother and wanted to look after her failing health that he did not even married during her life. He married Louise Whitfield at the age of 51 and went on to have a daughter with her. He was very passionate about education and turned a philanthropist after selling his business. He donated 90% of his wealth for various charitable purposes.

His main thrust of philanthropic activities was his focus on establishment of public libraries throughout US, Britain and Canada. He is said to have funded some 3000 libraries. He also donated to help set up University of Birmingham in 1899. In 1900, he gave $2 million to start Carnegie Institute of Technology. He also funded Carnegie Institution at Washington D.C., Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and Carnegie United Kingdom Trust.

Carnegie died on August 11, 1919 in Massachusetts due to pneumonia. Before his death he had donated $350,695,653 (approximately $76.9 billion in 2015). His rich philosophy to the life was:

  • To spend the first third of one’s life in getting all the education one can.
  • To spend next third life making all the money one can.
  • To spend the last third in donating it all away for worthy causes.

Related article: Rags To Riches – Oprah Winfrey

Rags To Riches – Oprah Winfrey


She is often called ‘Queen of all media’ and has been ranked as the richest African-American of 20th century, Oprah Winfrey is one great example of people who defy all adversities in their journey from rags to riches. As she famously said,

“Turn your wounds into wisdom”

Early Life

Oprah was born on January 29, 1954 in Mississippi, US. to an unmarried teenage mother who worked as a housemaid. As per her own admission, she was sexually abused for years by a number of male relatives. To be free from all this, she ran away from home and became pregnant at 14. Her son died in infancy. Later she went to live with her father who was a barber in Tennessee, where she discovered her knack for public speaking and debate and landed a job in radio while still at high school. Starting from co-anchoring evening news there, she slowly moved to daytime talk show.

Success Story

In 1983 she shifted to Chicago and started doing television where she boosted a low rated local Chicago talk show AM Chicago to top slot. Later this was renamed as The Oprah Winfrey Show and by 1986 was being broadcasted nationally. Initially classified as a tabloid talk show, it soon evolved into a talk show which was classy and all the celebrities wanted to appear on it. In 1993 she hosted an interview with Michael Jackson which became the most watched interview ever with an audience of 36.5 million. The show was aired for 25 seasons from 1986 to 2011. The show was so successful that within the first year of it’s launch, at the age of 32 Oprah became millionaire.

Winfrey also appeared in films and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. In 1998 she produced and starred in the film Beloved. Winfrey has been well known for her weight loss efforts. She lost estimated 90 pounds to achieve her ideal weight. Winfrey has co-authored 5 books including one weight loss book. She also published magazines: O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home which remained quite successful.

Winfrey created the website Oprah.com providing online interactive content related to her shows, magazines and charity. More than six million users visit the site per month. She also has her presence on radio with her Oprah Radio channel.

In 2011 Winfrey started Oprah Winfrey Network, a joint venture with Discovery Communications. The network faced financial hurdles in the beginning but later started doing well. It made headlines early in 2013 when Lance Armstrong appeared on air for interview with her.

Personal Life

Winfrey by her own admission had been a victim of sexual abuse and gave birth to a boy at the age of 14. Her son died shortly after. She has been allegedly involved in few serious and non serious and even drug related affairs. Since 1986 she has been together with her boyfriend Stedman Graham. They were engaged and were scheduled to be married in November 1992, but the ceremony never took place.

Winfrey became a millionaire at the age of 32 and ever since then she has grown to multi millionaire and then multi billionaire. She was listed as the only black billionaire from 2004 to 2006 by the Forbes international rich list. As per forbes her net worth rose to 3 billion USD by 2017. She has been awarded by CNN, Times.com, The American Spectator, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly and host of others with various titles ranging from one of the most influential person of the 20th century to the most powerful celebrity woman. In 2005 she ranked number 9 on the list of greatest Americans in a public poll. In November 1993, Winfrey received highest civilian honor of US, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Winfrey has contributed great deal to philanthropic causes. She has been acknowledged as one among the top 50 generous Americans. In 1998 she created Oprah Angel Network, a charity that supported various charitable causes all around the world. A true example of rags to riches story, her inspiring message to the world:

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness”

Related article: Rags To Riches – Dhirubhai Ambani

Rags To Riches – Dhirubhai Ambani

Dhirubhai Ambani

Born to a school teacher, he was third of five siblings, Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani or Dhirubhai Ambani, as he is popularly called, is the shiniest example of the Indian heroes who rose from obscurity and very humble backgrounds and went on to create one of the largest Indian company featured on Fortune 500 companies list.

Early Life

He was born on 28th December, 1932 in Chorwad village in Gujarat where his parents had very modest means. Though his father was a teacher he showed little interest in formal education. At the tender age of 16 he went to Aden, Yemen and joined A. Besse & Co. which was one of a largest trading firms in the region as a gas station attendant and dispatch clerk and with hard work soon became a distributor for shell products. It was here that he started dreaming about setting up and owning a refinery which he later realized when he started his petrochemical venture.

Success Story

He got married to Kokilaben in 1954 and in 1958 came back to India to start his own business. He set up an office at Masjid Bunder of South Mumbai in 1960’s as Reliance Commercial Corporation and started to import polyester and export spices in partnership with his second cousin Champaklal Damani. They both had difference of opinions regarding the conduct of business and soon separated out. The success of Dhirubhai can be attributed to his tremendous ability to raise huge capital and larger than life vision for the future. He always sensed the next big opportunity and that way always remained ahead of the pack. As he famously said,

“Think big, think fast, think ahead. Ideas are no one’s monopoly.”

Reliance Industries

In 1966 Dhirubhai founded Reliance Textiles Industries Pvt. Ltd. and started his own textile manufacturing unit at Naroda, Ahmedabad. In 1970’s Reliance established itself as a dominant player in the market with Vimal brand. Continued emphasis on quality won Vimal accolades from even world bank technical team and was applauded as best polyester clothing brand. The big breakthrough came in 1977 when Reliance held it’s initial public offering (IPO). 58000 investors showed their interest and the issue was oversubscribed seven times. Thereafter company expanded fast and increased it’s installed capacity for producing polyester yarn as well as amalgamated in it some other smaller textile companies.

Between 1980 and 1985 Dhirubhai fought many a battles at stock exchange where the old established players tried all dirty tricks to weaken the company, but they always fell short in front of his ability and skill to outmaneuver them every time. In 1985 the name of the company was changed to Reliance Industries and shortly thereafter in 1991-92 it diversified into petrochemicals with the commissioning of Hazira Petrochemical plant. Later Reliance diversified into telecom, finance, energy, natural resources and retail among other industries. As of March 2013 the company had 123 subsidiary companies and 10 associate companies. By March 2017 it has grown to be second largest company in India by revenue and market capitalization. Vision for Reliance was set up by Dhirubhai Ambani when he said,

“Meeting the deadlines is not good enough, beating the deadlines is my expectation.”

Personal Life

Possessed with huge ambition, inexhaustible energy and with uncanny business sense the life journey of Dhirubhai is the true story of rise from rags to riches. He got married to Kokilaben in 1954 and they were blessed with four children. He suffered stroke in 1986 which limited him somewhat physically but never in his vision. He has remained one of the most awarded entrepreneur for his contributions. Dean’s Medal in 1998 from Wharton School, Power 50 – the most powerful people in Asia by Asiaweek magazine in 1996, 1998 and 2000, The ABLF Global Asian Award in 2011 and Padma Vibhushan award, the second highest civilian honor in India, in 2016 are some of the awards he received. He died on 6th July, 2002 after suffering another major stroke.

Related article: Rags To Riches – Sam Walton

Rags To Riches – Sam Walton

Sam Walton

Their life is the story of rise from streets to the corridors of power, from scarcity to abundance, from a nobody to height of fame, these are the people who have defied all odds to reach the pinnacle of success. We share today the inspiring story of rise from rags to riches of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

“Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom.”

Early Life

Born to Thomas Gibson Walton and Nancy Lee in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, US on March 29, 1918, Sam Walton grew up during the Great Depression at the family farms milking the cows and supplying the surplus to customer to make ends meet. To support his family he did all kind of odd jobs from distributing newspapers to waiting tables.

After high school he decided to attend college and completed his graduation in 1940 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. After graduation he joined as management trainee in a company from where he resigned to be inducted in army for service in World War II. In army he reached the position of captain before leaving in 1945.

Success Story

At the age of 26 he started his first variety store in Newport, Arkansas with the help of a loan of $20000 and his small savings. He named his store Ban Franklin. With some innovations and pioneering concepts the sales of his store increased 3 fold within 3 years. He opened his second store after three years at a distance of 200 miles from the first store. This gave him huge lessons about management and delegation of responsibility. After tasting success with these stores he went into overdrive and started opening new outlets and in 12 years he expanded to 18 Ben Franklin franchises.

He encouraged his managers to innovate and got them deeply involved by offering them equity stakes in business. This motivation of his team went a long way in designing his success. Another unique strategy by Sam was that he chose the location of his stores in smaller towns rather than the big cities, a usual practice at that time. He used to say “If everybody is doing it one way, there is a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction.”


The first true Wal-Mart opened in Rogers, Arkansas on July 2, 1962. In Wal-Mart stores Sam Walton strategically marketed American products. This helped to bring down his acquisition cost of the merchandise significantly and became more competitive than the foreign companies. As a result of this he was able to pass on the savings in product pricing to the customers. He said “There is only one boss. The customer, and he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Within next five years Walmart expanded to 24 outlets and US$12.6 million in sales. Growing rapidly from a retail chain in Arkansas it has become world’s largest company by revenue and as of January 31, 2017 Walmart has 11,695 stores and clubs in 28 countries around the globe.

Personal Life

Walton married Helen Robson on February 14, 1943. They had four children. Walton was included in Times list of 100 most influential people of the 20th century in 1998. He has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992. Sam M. Walton College of Business at University of Arkansas is named in his honor. He had been ranked the richest person in the United States from 1982 to 1988 by the Forbes magazine. At the age of 74, Walton died on April 5, 1992 due to blood cancer in Little Rock, Arkansas. He left the ownership of his company to his wife and their children.


Related article: Success Rules By Bill Gates