If you see someone on a handicap vehicle with muscle rigidity talking in slurred speech what would be your first thoughts? Most would feel pity or sorry. But pity is the last thing you should feel. I met a bright entrepreneur here.
Vinayak Hegade or lovingly called Agarbatti Vinayaka was affected with cerebral palsy in childhood but Vinayak let nothing, right from illness, handicap to poor economic standards get in the way of him achieving his economic freedom. He is a smart chap, in the business of selling Agarbatti and other devotional needs for the past 13 years. He supplies these at the door step and remembers all his customer’s preferences. He has some clear views about economic freedom for all and he has a few nuggets of wisdom for the able bodied as well! Read on to know his story in his own words.
How did you start?
I wanted to do something on my own. I believed I should be independent. I wanted to deal in something that will be used daily, will not rot and won’t be too heavy on investment. Initially nobody helped me. I was dejected and went to the local temple. I asked for divine help from the goddess. This is when I found an initial investment for my business. I believed god helped me in my tough time, so I started the business of agarbatti (incense sticks), dhup and karpura business.
A friend showed me a wholesale store in Hubbali. I started getting it from there and was selling it on foot. I went door to door and sold these. I was not ashamed to work hard. My handicap cannot be a reason for me to fail.
Initially people ignored me, some considered me a beggar while a few were scared of me but I did not give up. This is my journey from an unknown to Agarbatti Vinayak
A reporter from local news Lokadhwani saw me selling door to door. He called me and clicked my picture. He asked me about my details and my background. I connected them to my mother and she answered their questions. Ashok Hasyagar was the reporters name and he got my article published the next day. I will be internally grateful to him. This proved to be a turning point for me as people in Sirsi started recognizing me. After this a few other papers also published my story. Prajavani, vijayvani, digvijay news, marikamba channel are few of the channels that have carried an article on me calling me Agarbatti Vinayak.
Cycle brand agarbatti connected with me after seeing the news. They called me and gave me dealership with no investment. This has been of great help. Looking at my efforts to be independent the Nagar Adhyaksha Pradeep Shetty allocated me a two wheeler for handicap, which has helped me grow my business.
Praises and Accolades
I am never ashamed of working hard and people recognize it. Today, though agarbatti (incense sticks) are easily available, people wait for me and buy it from me. If there are any regular yearly puja and celebrations, people inform me in advance to get their Pooja needs fulfilled from me. With the vehicle in my hand, I have now expanded my business beyond Sirsi to many nearby villages like Salkani, Onnekani, etc. Many doctors, banks, temples, local court, judge, staff, police, politicians are my regular customers today.
Initially things were not easy. Even if I could sell a product of Rs.10 it was a big deal. People were hesitant to deal with me. Some were scared of me because of my looks, others abused me or at times hit me when I went to sell the products. Those were dark times and I used to be extremely dejected.
Then there were some wonderful people as well like, a local TV network person saw me, spoke to me and assured me that things will turn for the best. He brought few agarbatti from me and appreciated that I was working to be independent. Those words boosted my confidence and I decided to try much harder. Another such customer once said “You are born to win.. you will win.. don’t leave your path. Your efforts will definitely bear fruits.” These motivations helped me stay on my path.
Moment of Pride
Today with my work, I can easily take care of myself and my mother. In 2012 my mother was detected with breast cancer. My uncle paid for the initial expenses and operation. I repaid the whole amount in the next few years. Today I am proud that we have no loans and I can take good care of my mother who has been my biggest motivator.
I cannot maintain accounts in writing. I mostly memorize it. Whatever amount I earn, I give a part of it to my mother for monthly expenses and the rest I save in bank and other investment options.
I wanted to learn and it gave me immense joy to go to school. I studied in a local school for differently abled. I learnt to hold the pen and calculate there. A government school would hold a parade near my house. I loved the parade and visit them every day. The principal there saw me and when they saw that I was interested in learning, they promised my mother to admit me in the school. I studied in the school till 8th Std . After that I failed and left school.
It was after this that I started my entrepreneurial journey.
For those who are handicapped I would say – Don’t be dejected with your shortcomings and stop brooding over it. Learn to be independent. Luck favors the brave. Instead of crying about things that we cannot do, focus on things we can do and do them well. If you are ready to work hard and with dedication, success will definitely be yours and I am testament to that.
Agarbatti Vinayak has some words for those who have been blessed with a healthy mind and body. There is no greatness in being a highly qualified individual who is unwilling to work. “Don’t waste time and be stubborn about a kind of job. Everyone has to start somewhere, so it’s important to start. There is dignity in any kind of work. Do not consider anyone’s work beneath you. “