Presenting an exclusive interview with Krishan Kumar, an inspiring entrepreneur who has penned down about his trailblazing journey in his latest autobiography – Refugee Entrepreneur. Read further to get moved with his motivational trail.
Tell us about your childhood experience when you crossed over to India and settled in the City Beautiful.
I was born in Karachi on 20 March 1937 to Dr M.L. Singh and Mahesh Devi. The paternal side of my family were traditionally doctors – my father was an eye surgeon, my grandfather too was a doctor, and my great grandfather was a ‘hakim’ who practised in Afghanistan, before settling down in Lyallpur, near Faislabad.
But those were the times of social strife, and I was just 10 years old when we left everything, our home, our businesses and jobs, our friends and families behind and crossed over to India to stay in my father’s cousin’s home in Ferozepur.
After I completed my matriculation I apprenticed at a chemist shop in Ludhiana in order to prepare for setting up my own chemist shop.
Dad was nearing retirement and at that time around 1958, the announcement of a brand-new city Chandigarh was abuzz everywhere, and one day, my father and I landed up in the city to bid for an auction of commercial plots. We were allotted Shop No. 18 in Sector 19A, and thus began my life in the city, with new hopes and expectations for my first startup.
How were your initial beginnings? When did you initiate Mohan Fibres Limited, which is today a multi-crore company in Derabassi?
I forayed into a number of enterprises. I supervised the complete construction of the shop and ultimately set up the chemist shop there. Realising the importance of accounting in business, I learnt the fundamentals of accounts management from a professional who looked after shop’s transactions.
My second venture was the purchase of a coal depot in partnership with Gulati’s since there was a huge demand for coal.
The construction in the city was in full swing and looking at the opportunity I purchased a brick kiln in 1962. Later I set up a poultry farm under the guidance of Padamshree awardee Mr B V Rao of Venkateshwar Hatcheries and again progressed well, and I was made Deputy Chairman of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC).
I also ventured into construction and set up a construction company and won various government contracts.
We discovered another gap in the moulded paper egg trays market, and we went into manufacturing with Mohan Paper Moulding Pvt Ltd in 1977. In 1987, we graduated in setting up Mohan Fibre Products Limited at Derabassi.
Tell us more about your autobiography – Refugee Entrepreneur. What motivated you to write the same?
In 2020, amidst the pandemic, the opportunity came when Denmark based Brodrene Hartmann, a world leader in paper moulded packaging, in their expansion spree approached us for acquisition. Once the formalities got completed by the end of the year, and in 2021 I was completely free, and often spent time telling stories to friends and my grandchildren of my life.
My daughter insisted on turning these stories into a book format so that everyone in the family could know about my life. Thus, this was another startup for me, and I plunged deep down with full commitment to make copious notes of my life’s journey. The mission was just to tell the story and record it for posterity, but at the same time leave some learning for the readers to find direction in an hour of life’s ups and downs.
With so many years in Tricity, you must have witnessed this city evolve. Share some of those cherished memories from the City Beautiful?
I have seen this city grow from nothingness to a flourishing, throbbing city, from friendlier neighbourhoods to the diminishing personal contacts and dwindling family get-togethers. We had low means yet very rich relationships. Now with hordes of gadgets and devices around and so-called online friends, I find the real honest and trustworthy relationships, and selfless service and work ethics, vanishing.
As an inspiring and successful entrepreneur, what message would you like to give to the youth of Tricity?
When we are young we do not know what life has in store for you. But living life to the fullest, with truthfulness and honesty, and trust in the people you deal with, amazingly supports your enterprise with Divine intervention. I have seen this happening time and again. When you are true to yourself and honest in your business dealings, you would invariably thrive and grow. The setbacks do happen in any business, but with a positive frame of mind, you can always spring back and transform them into positive outcomes.