Karsanbhai Patel: King of Detergents, Soaps and Cosmetics

Karsanbhai Khodidas Patel, an Indian industrialist considered as among India’s wealthiest persons, has made his mark in the world through his business and education interests. His Nirma group has major interests in various industries particularly in detergents, soaps and cosmetics. He also has interests in education through his creation of Nirma Institute of Pharmacy, a leading pharmacy college, and of Nirma Institute of Technology, a leading engineering college, both in India.

Born into a family of farmers, he strived to earn his degree in chemistry before working as a laboratory technician ins several organizations including the New Cotton Mills and the state government’s geology and mining department. He started his business career in 1969 as a manufacturer and retailer of low-cost detergent powder, which he sold on a door-to-door basis on his bicycle. He names the product Nirma after his daughter.

After 3 years of his one-man operation, he quit his job despite the fear of failure. He set up his first shop in a small workshop and he soon established the Nirma brand in Gujarat and Maharashtra. His formula for success: High quality products sold at substantially lower prices than the competitors including Hindustan lever.

Within ten years, Nirma became the bestselling detergent in India while the company itself became a leading employer, thanks to the labor-intensive process involved in its manufacture. Patel then decided to enter the premiums segment with its toilet soaps, beauty soaps, and premium detergents, which now has a 20% market share in the soap cake segment and 35% in the detergent sector. His company is also enjoying success in neighboring countries.

In 1995, Patel started his forays into education with the creation of the Nirma Institute of Technology followed by the Nirma Institute of Management; the two are now consolidated into the Nirma University of Science and Technology. He has also launched the Nirmalabs education project, which trains and incubated entrepreneurs.

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