Karsanbhai Khodidas Patel was an Indian industrialist and the founder of the Nirma Group of companies. He is the man behind one of the most popular as well as sought-after brands in the detergent market. His idea of housewife-friendly and cost-effective soaps and detergents took shape in the form of Nirma detergent powders which became a household name just a few years after he began manufacturing detergents in his backyard and delivering them in handmade packets door to door.
Today, Nirma manufactures a host of consumer products under its brand umbrella including salts, cosmetics, soaps, detergents, injectables, and soda ash. Karsanbhai featured in the Forbes magazine in 2019 in the list of the richest persons in India; his net worth being $3.9 billion dollars. Being a visionary who also happen to take an interest in education, Karsanbhai Patel founded one of the leading Pharmacy colleges in India, the Nirma Institute of Pharmacy. He also established a leading engineering college in the name of the Nirma Institute of Technology.
Karsanbhai Patel was born in the year 1945 into a family of farmers to the north of Gujarat. He started his career at the age of 21 as a lab technician after graduating with a B.Sc. degree in Chemistry. At the age of 24, he started manufacturing detergents in his backyard, going from door to door to sell the detergents at a meager price of Rs. 3 per kilogram. He would also offer a money-back guarantee to his buyers which eventually earned him his first few loyal customers.
Back in those days, conglomerates like Hindustan Unilever and Surf dominated the market for soaps and detergents; their products on the counter were priced at Rs. 15 per kilogram which was beyond the bracket of affordability for the middle class. Patel’s breakthrough in the detergent market made it possible even for the middle class to get their hands on detergents for regular use.
After three years of manufacturing detergents in his 10×10 room, he took a leap of faith to quit his job and establish a workshop in Ahmedabad. Karsanbhai named the brand after his daughter Nirupama. This is when Nirma took off as a brand in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
In the following years, Nirma started expanding its range of products and entered the luxury segment by including products like toilet, bath and beauty soaps, premium detergent powders, and edible salts. Nirma became a household name, gaining both recognition and trust from its consumers. The brand even got listed in the stock exchange in 1994. In the same year, he founded the Nirma Institute of Technology. The Nirma Institute of Management, diploma studies, pharmacy, science, and the law was founded in consecutive years.
Karsanbhai received an honorary doctorate from Florida Atlantic University for his unparalleled experience in entrepreneurship and philanthropy in the year 2001. He also received the Padma Shree Award by the President in the year 2010.
At present, Nirma employs more than 18,000 people and holds 20% of the market share in soaps and cakes and a little more than 35% in detergents.
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