Top 10 Famous Stories of ‘Rags-to-Riches’

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“Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent”

Who doesn’t want to be successful? While some inherit enormous wealth, others start ahead by being born into opportunity. But here we talk about people who created their own opportunities. These are the people who started with nothing and through hard work, talent, grit and a bit of luck managed to rise to the very top. Although it’s hard to imagine these people ever struggling but the fact is all of these have made way through the toughest of hurdles. From gruesome poverty to parent’s death they have suffered more than we can think of. Following are the incredible stories of people who eventually turned their lives around and became an inspiration to those who dream of a professional career with nothing in hand.

10. Gulshan Kumar, Musician/ Singer

gulshan kumar

Gulshan Dua, famous as Gulshan Kumar was the founder of T-Series music label and an Indian Bollywood movie producer. Gulshan was born into a Punjabi Hindu family. His father was a fruit juice seller in Delhi, where he started working early. When his family acquired a shop selling records and cheap cassettes, this was the beginning of a vast music empire. He founded Super Cassettes Industries and later a music production company in Noida. He also introduced music cassettes at highly subsidized prices. He was assassinated on July 12, 1997 and now his son Bhushan Kumar runs his music company.

9. Ponty Chadha, Businessman

ponty chadha

Gurdeep Singh Chadha, famous as Ponty Chadha, was a liquor baron from Uttar Pradesh. Chadha used to sell snacks with his father in front of country-made liquor shop in his hometown. They made a significant profit once his father Kulwant Singh managed to get a license to run a liquor shop. Various sources indicate that Chadha’s hands were disabled due to an electric shock as a child. Chadha gained popularity and expanded his liquor business to INR 60,000 Crore (US$ 10 billion) in three states of Northern India including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and New Delhi. He co-owned the company with his brother Hardeep and Rajinder. Apart from liquor, he was also involved in food processing, paper manufacturing, sugar mills, distilleries, power manufacturing, bottling plants, real estate as well as film distribution.

8. Patricia Narayan, Restraunt owner

patricia narayan

Winner of 2010 ‘Ficci Woman Entrepreneur of the year’, this woman had to fight against her parents to marry the person of her own choice. Although the marriage did not work out since her husband was a drug and alcohol addict and used to beat her up every day. She was thrown out of the house with two small children. She was given refuge by her father who never forgave her for marrying the man he didn’t like. She decided to fight her battle alone. She started making jams, pickles, squash at home and selling coffee at beach. From earning 50 paisa per day she now earns INR 200,000 and owns a chain of restaurants.

7. Richard Desmond, Publisher/ businessman

richard desmond

Richard Clive Desmond, an English publisher and businessman is the owner of express Newspapers and founder of Northern and Shell. He lost his hearing power at an early age in life. The loss of family money due to a gambler father and parent’s divorce landed up this impoverished adolescent and his mother in a flat above garage. At the age of 15, he started working in classified advertisement section of Thomson Group, and played drums at night. In 2010 he was ranked 57th richest man in Britain according to Sunday Times Rich List.

6. Leonardo Del Vecchio, designer/manufacturer of glassframes

leonardo del vecchio

Founder and chairman of Luxottica, a designer and manufacturer of high quality glass frames, Leonardo Del Vecchio was born as a child of impecunious family. His father died five months prior to his birth and was given to an orphanage by his mother because she was unable to look after the child financially. He started his career as an apprentice to a tool and dye maker in Milan but later used his skills to make spectacle parts. Now he is known for Sunglass hut, Ray-Ban, Oakley glasses. According to Forbes magazine Leonardo Del Vecchio is the second richest man in Italy with net worth of US$ 15.3 billion dollars, and 49th richest man in the world as per rankings of March 2013.

5. Rajnikanth, actor


Rajnikanth, the famous Indian film actor, media personality and cultural icon was born to mother Jijabai and father Ramoji Rao Gaikwad, a police constable in Banglore. He was the youngest of four siblings and after his mother’s death when he was nine years old, he struggled with on the breadline doing odd jobs as a coolie in his community. He performed various jobs before joining the Banglore Transport Service (BTS) as a bus conductor. He began to take part in stage plays after Kannada playwright and director Topi Muniappa offered him a chance to act in mythological moral plays. Since then, there was no looking back. He emerged as a Tamil megastar from 70s till present. He won various state film awards, best actor awards, Filmfare and Padma Bhushan. Other than acting he also worked as a producer and screenwriter. After being paid INR 26 Crore (US$ 4.5 million), he became the second highest paid actor in Asia.

4. J.K. Rowling, Writer

jk rowling

Joanne Rowling, who chose her pen name as J.K. Rowling is a British novelist, best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. Rowling talks of her childhood as the awful time of her life as she had a complicated relationship with her father and an ill mother to look after. Her miseries did not cease even in later years of her life as her marriage ended up in divorce and this single mother was once unemployed and depended on welfare to make the ends meet until her first of the harry potter series was published. She progressed to multi-millionaire status within five years.

3. Dhirubhai Ambani, Businessman

dhirubhai ambani

Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani better known as ‘Dhirubhai Ambani’ is Indian business tycoon who founded Reliance Industries and has been only one of few to be figured in the Sunday Times list of top 50 businessmen in Asia. His parents Hirachandbhai, a school teacher, and Jamanaben lived an impoverished dignity with two daughters and three sons. He once procured a tin of groundnut oil on credit from local wholesaler and sold the oil in retail on the roadside. The few rupees he earned as profit gave to his mother. Next, he began setting up bhajia stalls at village fairs during weekends when his school was closed. After completing his matriculation at the age of 16, he travelled to Aden in Yemen where he worked as a gas station attendant and then as a clerk in oil company. He opened his first textile mill at Naroda in Ahmednagar. By 2007, the combined fortune of the family was $ 60 billion, making Ambani’s the second richest family in the world. Ambani died on July 6, 2002.

2. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Scientist/administrator

apj abdul kalam

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam usually referred to as Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is an Indian scientist and administrator who served as the 11th President of India. Kalam was born in a Tamil Muslim family very poor Jainulabdeen, a boat owner and Ashiamma, a housewife. In order to supplement his family income he started working as a newspaper vendor at an early age. In his school days, he had average grades but was described as bright and sincere student. He had a strong desire to learn and would spend hours on his studies, especially mathematics. He graduated in physics and opted for aerospace engineering for further studies. His prominent role in India’s 1998 nuclear weapons established him as a national hero.

1. Oprah Winfrey, TV host

oprah winfrey

The famous American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey was born into poverty to an unmarried teenage mother, Vernita Lee who was a housemaid. For the initial six years of her life she was raised by her grandmother, who was so poor that Winfrey would have to wear dresses made of potato sacks. Adding to her dreadful childhood, she faced molestation from her uncle and cousin when she was not even ten. After suffering years of sexual abuse, she ran away from her home when she was 13. At 14 she became pregnant but her son died soon after birth. She began her career as co-anchor of local evening news at 19 and after boosting a third-rated Chicago talk show to first place, she launched her own production company. Presently she has been ranked the richest African-American of the 20th century and is said to be the most influential woman in the world.


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