Tulja Sukhdayalsing Sharma, aka Rani Tulja — a mechanical engineer, started Tulja Tooling with a loan of Rs 5 lakh. She speaks of what it's like in a man's world of machine tooling.
Tulja Sukhdayalsing Sharma, better known as Rani Tulja to her family, has weathered many a storm to become a successful self-made entrepreneur. A victim of domestic abuse and a single mother to a seven-year-old son, there have been instances in Rani’s life where she contemplated suicide.
The founder of Tulja Tooling, a machine tooling business, Rani deals with the manufacturing of components like fixtures, gauges, moulds and even various cutting equipment and patterns. Having started the business with an investment of Rs 5 lakh, the company in Financial Year (FY) 2019-2020 made Rs 24 lakh.
A woman in a man’s world of heavy machinery and tools, Rani’s story inspires women and single mothers everywhere and reminds them that nothing is impossible.
“In 2013, I had a love marriage and despite that ended up as a victim of domestic abuse and violence. It took me close to five years to decide to leave him and walk out. Since I had defied my family and decided to marry my former husband, the decision to leave him was a difficult one,” says Rani to The Better India.
Rani’s first salary, after she completed her Diploma in Draftsman Mechanical, was a meagre sum of Rs 1,500. She says that after gathering some experience she moved on to the next job that paid her Rs 4,000. “These were learnings but I was itching to start my own business. With a lot of trepidation and some amount of confidence in my ability, I started my own company in 2017 with my husband as my partner and a loan of Rs 10 lakh,” she says.
As a first-generation entrepreneur, Rani had to learn many things along the way. She says that she approached each problem with a sense of confidence. “It wasn’t just the problems I encountered professionally but I was also battling an abusive partner. My former husband would beat me up often. Once the business was established and doing fairly well he forced me to stay home,” she says.
It was because of the support she got from her parents that she decided to leave her former husband and move out.
Finding Success in a Man’s World
“Having established the tooling company with my former husband, and then giving it all up when we separated was very painful,” she says. Since most of the clients that the company had were friends of Rani’s former husband—when their problems started impacting the business—most of them chose to take his side.
The next four years, beginning from 2017, were very difficult for Rani as she had to start from scratch.
She continues, “Having lost everything to him [ex-husband], I knew that I would have to work doubly hard to re-establish myself. I pawned some of the gold jewellery I had, borrowed some money from my parents and got back into the business.” She says that the only day she spent crying was the day her divorce came through. “I cried all my sorrows out. After that, I vowed not to shed another tear. I have a lot of work that I need to accomplish and I don’t have any more time to spend in sorrow.”
When Rani walked out of her marriage, she was left penniless. Since her ex-husband was also part of the business, most of the financial transactions had already been made to his account. “I walked out with just my son and had no money of my own, unfortunately,” she says.
Beginning From Ground Zero
Rani re-established her unit in August 2020 with five machines, which includes a milling machine, lathe machine and drill machine, and employed two workers. For this, she says that she has got a loan of close to Rs 5 lakh. “I work on the design, technical aspects and also manage marketing. I have the support of my mentor Bhasuran Karukaran (57) who is my biggest supporter. Last year we managed to make Rs 24 lakh and that has motivated us to work harder.”
Bhasuran, who works as her partner in the business, comes with close to 20 years of experience in this line of work. Speaking about working with Rani, he says, “I met Rani close to 14 years ago and I saw the spark in her right away. The talent and her desire to work hard and make a difference is what helped her stand apart from others. I have seen how much of a personal struggle she has gone through and despite all that she has risen like a phoenix.”
He continues, “I am glad to be playing this small part in her success.”
However, the pandemic has put a spanner in their work. Rani says, “It’s an extremely tough period and one that has tested me on so many levels. While the challenges continue to be there I am grateful that having started with zero I have managed to come to this point today.” Even her son, Shivansh, who is all of seven, is perhaps her biggest cheerleader and the reason why Rani persists.
“My home is almost 40 km away from the unit. Every day I finish work only by 11 pm and then head home on my two-wheeler. I am working hard so that I can provide my son with a secure future,” she asserts.
There’s nothing glamorous about the work that Rani does. On most days she comes home covered in grime and machinery oil. The work is gruelling and one that requires Rani to be present all the time. Despite all this, she takes immense pride in what she does.
She says, “As women, we are extremely resilient and once we decide on achieving something, nothing can stop us. I am on a mission and I will get my success soon.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)