King of Spices no more!

'Mahashay' Dharampal Gulati, the owner of Mahashian Di Hatti (popularly known as MDH), passed away today  (on Thursday morning) at the age of 98. If there’s a brand that has been adding flavour to a million lives in India, it is MDH. A household name in the country, MDH (an acronym for Mahashian Di Hatti) has a rags-to-riches story of a refugee-turned-entrepreneur. According to reports, Gulati was undergoing treatment at Chanan Devi Hospital for the past few weeks and suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday morning.
Gulati, who was also called Dadaji, was a fifth-grade school dropout. He was known for diligently making daily rounds of factories, markets and dealers including on Sundays until he was satisfied everything was in order. His father’s family business was grinding and selling spices. The family was popularly called “deggi Mirch wale”, which translates to ‘people who sell red chilli powder’. The year 1947 changed everything as he and his family moved to India during the partition, leaving behind everything they owned. They reached a refugee camp in Amritsar before eventually moving to a flat in Delhi with no electricity, water or toilet facilities. On moving to Delhi, the young Gulati’s father gave him Rs 1500 out of which he used Rs 650 to buy a tonga (a horse-drawn carriage). There were days when he had no passengers and the two annas (equivalent to 1/8th of a rupee) that he charged proved too meagre to sustain a family. That’s when he decided to forego the tonga.
Later he sold the tonga and bought a small space at Ajmal Khan Road to start a business in his domain: spices. He made a brand out of it and called it ‘Mahashian Di Hatti’ (MDH). After a few initial years of grinding and selling spices from the tiny shop, the family started making enough money. In 1953, he rented the second shop at Chandni Chowk, and in 1959 he bought a plot of land and set up a spice factory in Kirti Nagar.
Gulati was India's highest-paid consumer products CEO for the year 2017. That year, he had taken home over Rs 21 crore as salary, out-earning celebrity honchos like Adi Godrej and Vivek Gambhir of Godrej  Consumer, Sanjiv Mehta of Hindustan Unilever and YC Deveshwar of ITC. His company is now a sprawling Rs 1500 crore business empire which runs the masala company, a number of schools and a hospital.
MDH has a number of overseas offices including in Dubai and London. The company exports its products to over 100 countries. Gulati's son manages the overall operations now and six daughters handle distribution region wise. MDH has more than 60 products and gets a majority of its sales from three variants - Deggi Mirch, Chat Masala and Chana Masala. Each of these products reportedly sells over a crore packet every month. He was a self-made billionaire who turned his roadside spice shop into one of the biggest Indian businesses in the world.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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