NAME: SUDIP DUTTA
OCCUPATION: CHAIRMAN, MD, ESS DEE ALUMINIUM LTD
FATHER’S NAME: VIJAY SHANKAR DUTTA
OCCUPATION: SECURITY GUARD
Sudip Dutta sits behind a huge desk on the top floor of the three-storey Ess Dee House in Kandivli, Mumbai, the chairman and managing director of Ess Dee Aluminium Ltd, with a market cap of Rs1,500 crore.
Twenty-one years ago, as a 16-year-old immigrant from Durgapur, with no money, job or foreseeable future, he lived in Mira Room, sharing with over 20 people a space not larger than his cabin now.
His father, Vijay Shankar Dutta, retired from the army after sustaining bullet wounds in the 1971 war and took up a job as a security guard around the time Sudip was born—his salary and a small pension barely enough to feed the family of eight, including four boys and two girls.
A tragic turning point in the younger Dutta’s life was the death of an older brother, whose tumour could not be treated with the family’s meagre resources. After his father too died three months later, the family was left in the middle of a crisis.
Dutta finished his class XII exam and the joint common entrance test (CET) before leaving for Mumbai. He says it was difficult to earn in Durgapur and friends suggested that one could always find a job in Mumbai. “When you have walls on either side, the only way to go is forward,” he says.
He later found out that he got a respectable 376 rank in CET; he still holds on to that admit card.
In May 1989, after spending a night at Dadar railway station, he found accommodation in Mira Road. He got a job as a loader in a firm in Jogeshwari that made sachets, alone in the city and still an emotional wreck recovering from the deaths in his family.
Two years later, when the owners wanted to sell the loss-making venture, Dutta, with savings and help from friends, bought the company for Rs16,000, with a promise of sharing profits for two years with the former owners. In 1991, not yet 20 years old, Dutta was the proprietor of his own company with a workforce of seven people.
He soon started supplying to pharmaceutical companies, entered the packaging business by leasing a sick aluminium foil printing unit in 1993, became a distributor for Indian Aluminium Co. Ltd (Indal), set up 20 units between 1998 and 2000 starting with the first one in Vasai. In 2004, he stepped into manufacturing with his own aluminium rolling and conversion unit, and then bought a struggling India Foils in 2008.
Today, the man referred to as “Narayana Murthy of packaging” by a client, has two sons with wife Aarti, lives with his mother and father-in-law in a neighbourhood in Lokhandwala, Andheri, that also houses actors. He runs a trust that helps promising young people with education. His other weakness is cars—he has a BMW and an Audi.
Dutta says education helps earn respect: “You can’t work just because you have read some books.” He does not believe much in destiny either: “Everyone has luck, you should just know to use it.”
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