As a teenager, Mumbai-based Ruhi Pradhan was utterly confused as to what she intended to do in her life. When she failed in the 12th standard, she plunged into ‘great depression’. But her parents supported her in this hour of personal crisis. In particular, her banker father encouraged her to overcome this grief. This worked miracles: she passed out of school and topped her college for graduation.

Then, without informing anyone, not even her parents, she cleared the tests to enter the Ahmedabad-based Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII). While still a student at EDII, she acquired a sick textile unit at Vapi, South Gujarat, turned it around, and attracted attention of others facing similar problems in the industrial district. Now, another sick unit in Vapi and one plastic-maker in Daman also want her to turn them around.

Her unit’s products are now being supplied to biggies like Big Bazaar and ONGC. “Since the time I joined EDII, the spirit of entrepreneurship just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The ‘greed’ of achievement keeps on increasing. The environment motivates me a lot, day in and day out, and entrepreneurship keeps building within me,” says the 24-year-old student-entrepreneur, who divides her time between Ahmedabad, Vapi and Mumbai on a weekly basis. Excerpts from the interview:

What difference did EDII make in your life?

I became more focussed and started taking things very seriously. On the very first day at EDII, I was taught that entrepreneurs are the ones who first identity a problem and then set out to provide the best solution.

That was how I began to look for a problem I could solve and came across the sick ready-made garment unit, Podoval Garments, 20 km from Vapi. It was being run by a Malayali businessman for about 10 years.

It had good infrastructure — 15 sewing machines and 10 skilled workers, plus 35 on contract work — but had fallen sick due to many reasons, particularly financial.

What were the problems being faced by it and how did you sort them out?

When I acquired 60 per cent stake in it for ₹3 lakh by signing a partnership deal in August 2016, it was making only 100 garment units per day against the installed capacity of 400. It had only a few local orders for garment supply. It was in default of a ₹5 lakh bank loan plus the owner had to pay ₹14 lakh to others.

In order to get over these bottlenecks, I reached out to other units and got work outsourced to my unit from other garmenting and textile units in the same area to maximise use of our infrastructure. We began to manufacture units for exports as well. I am regularly paying in monthly instalments all the balance dues and hope to break-even in some 18 months.

Subsequently, I acquired the remaining 40 per cent stake in the unit and renamed it Ruhi Kishore Pradhan Garments. Now we are making around 350 units per day. And workers are being paid regularly. Besides, we have vastly improved human resource relationships through a number of measures to make our workers rededicate themselves to production work wholeheartedly.

How did you convince the factory workers for this turnaround?

The ‘formula’ I used was that of teamwork and friendship. And I convinced them with my working performance. Now, I am able to successfully run a garment factory with almost 100 per cent work efficiency. Convinced with our new work culture, a local garment unit outsourced work to us for supplying garments for exports as well as for Big Bazaar and ONGC.

Where do you go from here? Any new plans up your sleeve?

Yes. Within four months, I have employed more than 50 people, of whom, 10 are on our own staff. And I am looking to expand and employ as many women as I can. And I am also toying with the idea of launching our own brand of garments for local consumption.

Besides, I am also talking with another garment unit in Vapi and a plastic unit in Daman for undertaking a similar turnaround.