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‘Take 15 days to mourn, then clear debt’: What bank said after father’s death

punjab Updated: Jun 27, 2016 21:29 IST
Aneesha Sareen
Sandeep Riat

Sandeep Riat, managing director, Akal Spring Limited.

Twelve years ago, world came crashing down on this 34-year-old entrepreneur from Ludhiana when her father died of brain haemorrhage. Creditors had started hounding her to clear debt of Rs 10 crore taken by her father’s company, Akal Springs Limited, and there was no hope in sight for her.

Featuring this week on the Facebook page launched by city administration — Inspiring Daughters of Ludhiana — is the story of Sandeep Riat alias Minnie who, with her sheer grit and determination, emerged as a winner against all odds.

She remembers the day her father died in 2004. The bank official had told her “Take 15 days to mourn and then clear your debt”, when 22-year-old Sandeep was sobbing near her father’s body.

Second among four siblings, Sandeep had just completed her graduation in business management, when she had to take over her father’s sick unit as managing director. It took her four years to clear the debt after which she started working on the unit.

But those years were very tough for her, as she faced the daunting task of dealing with umpteen court cases, bank recovery agents, and over 250 employees, who would ask for their salaries almost every day.

She managed to transform the sick unit, which manufactured truck suspensions, into a profit making venture, and today, her company receives orders from major vehicle manufacturers, including Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra, in Jamshedpur, Lucknow for spare parts of trucks, and is also into exporting auto parts.

Recalling everything, she says, “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. One day there was a court case at Delhi, another at Chandigarh and the third at Ludhiana court and I was wondering which one to attend.”

“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 says.

Picking up the pieces, Sandeep took one thing at a time and what followed was ardent hard work.

“I requested the staff comprising a large number of migrant workers to have faith and continue for some time without wages. They agreed. Then I took a major decision and sold off four-acre land of the plant and shifted entire machinery to the remaining two acres, that helped in getting rid of some debt,” she added.

For starting the work again, she needed money but seven nationalised banks refused to give her loan at that time.

“Nobody trusted us, banks used to say I am a woman, and how will I run an industrial unit? Only one bank showed faith and finally we managed to some loan and started the work all over again,” she said.

Using business tactics and opening another entity helped developed her business again.

“From a period of 2006 to 2008, I worked day and night and do not remember how these years flew by. I don’t even remember celebrating my birthday during these years,” she said.

The unit, managed single-handedly by Sandeep, is now raking in huge profits today.

Sandeep was awarded with Parman Patra award by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2011. All contented with the company reaching new heights, Sandeep’s brother and sister have also joined the business. Recently, she married off her younger sister.

“I wish my father was alive to see this day,” she signs off, with moist eyes.