“Take 15 days to mourn and then clear your debt,” a bank official told Sandeep Riat a day after her father died in 2004. She was 22-year-old at the time and didn’t know how she would clear a debt of Rs. 10 crore taken by her father’s company Akal Springs Limited.
Today, the 34-year-old entrepreneur has emerged a winner with her laudable determination and sheer hard work. She is the Managing Director of her father’s company, which has a turnover of Rs. 45 crore, and is keen on setting more benchmarks and deadlines for her to succeed.
Sandeep, who is second among four siblings, joined her father’s business after completing her graduation in business management. Prior to that she had worked with her father as an intern for three months, and in that period she came to know that he was under heavy debt. They were going through a very tough phase – family property and jewellery had to be sold off and there was a lot of pressure from the banks. Her father, Manjit Singh succumbed to the pressure and died of cardiac arrest and brain haemorrhage in 2004. This was when Sandeep had to take over the business as Managing Director.
Before her was the huge task of bringing the sick unit, which manufactured truck suspensions, back on track. And for that she had to deal with court cases, bank recovery agents, and over 250 employees asking for their salaries on a daily basis. Her sister had also joined the business earlier, but she was later married and went abroad.
“There were more than 45 court cases against us, including many cheque bounce cases. I used to come to the plant and there used to be about 20 people waiting for me, asking for their money…People used to advise me to run away, saying ‘nothing is going to happen’. Many a times, banks requested the DC to send police to our plant for taking it into possession. My mother had undergone a heart surgery and we were completely shattered. But, I told myself that I am not going to run away from all of this,” she told Hindustan Times.
Her staff members stood by her when she requested them to have faith in her and work without wages for a few days. Then she sold off four acres of land of the plant, shifted the entire machinery to the remaining two acres and used the money to get rid of some of the debt. However, seven nationalised banks refused to give her a loan that she needed to begin work. Most didn’t trust that she being a woman would be able to run an industrial unit. Finally, one bank gave her the loan and the company started work all over again, managed single-handedly by Sandeep.
Akal Springs Limited is a profit making venture now and receives orders from vehicle manufacturers like Tata Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra, etc. Her brother and sister have joined the business as well and she recently married off her younger sister. Sandeep was awarded with Parman Patra award by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2011 for contribution in business. She has a factory in Ludhiana, two offices and over 350 workers.