Srikanth Bolla is the visually challenged MIT graduate whose story of tenacity in the time of adverse conditions has all the ingredients to inspire all of us. Everyone faces adversity, they dream, and they work hard, but only a few cross the threshold of limits set by society.
When Srikanth was born, neighbours in the village termed him useless as he was born blind. In school, he was pushed to the back bench. His father decided to admit him to a special needs school in Hyderabad. The boy thrived — he not only learnt to play chess and cricket, but excelled in them. He topped his class, even embracing an opportunity to work with late President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in the Lead India project. Even then, misfortune never left his side.
When he wanted to take up science after his class X, he was denied the option because of his disability. Despite securing 98 percent in the XII board exams, he was denied an engineering seat at IIT. Srikanth not only fought the system but went on to become the first international blind student to be admitted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.
He decided to give up the ‘golden’ opportunity in corporate America and came back to India in search of answers to his questions. Speaking at the Development Dialogue Kakatiya Sandbox, he said, “When I was at MIT, I had two options before me. One was to settle down in the US and lead a lavish life, or fight the system. I chose the latter. That’s the quality of an entrepreneur. They need to have a vision and be willing to sacrifice.”
Srikanth is the CEO of Hyderabad-based Bollant Industries, an organization that employs uneducated, disabled employees to manufacture eco-friendly, disposable consumer packaging solutions, which are worth INR 50 crores. It started with just six employees and now employs around 150 people. He also established a company called Aasadeep Projects Pvt Ltd with the mission to overcome employment barriers and to provide sustainable and competitive employment to disabled people with and without education in India.
Srikanth found his inspiration in the everyday challenges that life threw his way. “I want to dedicate my life to the community and social service. I want a place in society where people look up to me as a role model and great leader,” he says.