A true visionary Shriram Ozone Group, Dhanbad

He does not hide his love for the city that has given him so much. "Just like any developing region, Dhanabad and the whole of Jharkhand for that matter has a lot to offer to upcoming businessmen. Those who have an eye for opportunities, this region is a goldmine and for me it is much more than money. The kind of recognition and respect that I have got from the city and its people, is humbling," says Pradeep Kumar Sonthalia, CMD, Shriram Ozone Group. It all started with an ice cream parlour, that has swelled into a colossal company, standing tall and mighty in the heart of the city of Dhanbad. The son of a simple oil dealer has today more than sixteen companies under his wing.

"The kind of recognition and respect that I have got from the city and its people, is humbling "

In fact, Sriram Ozone is on way to becoming the biggest conglomerate of the whole eastern region under the able leadership of Pradeep.With ambitions soaring, this entrepreneur is ready to explore more opportunities in the city, at the same time stretching himself to the maximum to realize any untapped potential within himself. However, the high profile realtor mellows, when he talks of his achievements. "Seriously, when I started I never thought I would reach this far," he admits.

"But I was clear on my strengths and the opportunities that were available. Right from my first venture in 1990, I laid emphasis on being systematic. Gradually I grew in confidence and gathered courage for entering other businesses," confides Pradeep. Since his father had a dealership of Indian Oil he acquired the distributorship of the same company for the whole of Jharkhand. A year later he took up ACC cement C&F for five major districts with supply coming from the Sindri plant. It was in 1998 that he took up the business of real estate. Dhanbad at that time was quite an unfamiliar territory for entrepreneurs and none could even think of erecting commercial buildings and using them on sustained business basis. However, contrary to what his friends and colleagues said, he went ahead with his hunch and started buying chunks of land in the city. "There were two or three practical problems. First, Dhanbad was alien to multiplexes and apartment culture.

The low profile lifestyle of the people here was not suited to such elaborate establishments," he rues. "There was this obvious risk of investment going sour. Secondly, not only the demand side but the supply side too was ailing. I had to convince retailers on a personal commitment to offset their losses in case they incurred any. Finally, the atmosphere of Dhanbad was poisoned with some major kidnappings of influential people. Getting highlighted like this would prove suicidal." He reclines in his chair recollecting his apprehensions. However, the risk was so well received that it transformed the commercial landscape of the town. The state got its first mall Ozone Galleria, under the aegis of Ozone Group.

"Gradually I grew in confidence and gathered courage for entering other businesses "

It also gave the local people the first taste of multiplex movies. Slowly, the concept of residential and commercial complexes started punctuating the city as the group kept switching from one massive project to another. But one thing remained common, the foresight and vision of its founder, who carved his way up, riding the crest of his newfound confidence. His hands were strengthened by the arrival of his only son in the business arena- smart and suave Nityanand, who has done his Masters in Engineering Business Management from Warwick University, UK ,where he topped with distinction. He brought freshness and new ideas to the company and boosted its business big time. The young businessman trusts his knowledge base and instincts to carry forward the rich legacy of his illustrious father.

"Whatever we have achieved till today is only one per cent of what we aspire for. In the next five years, we want to touch 50 lakh sq feet of realty space. A lot of work needs to be done. We are expecting to launch our IPO in 2014, which will provide fresh impetus to the high investment realty sector. There is a unique problem that we are facing today. We have no competitor as of now in the region. This is not a very happy situation to be in. You tend to sub-optimize and you lose the edge due to complacency," avers the buoyant young entrepreneur.

The senior Sonthalia nods in agreement, adding, "If only the governance of state improves the whole industry will benefit and more players will come in."

Pradeep’s mother took sanyas in 2006 and went to Vrindavan to spend the rest of her life there. His sprawling bungalow is constructed and done up according to Vastu and is meticulously maintained. Every bedroom has its unique flavour. A huge balcony overlooks the spacious lawn and he has a personal gym too, though he finds it difficult to avail of it often.

"Whatever we have achieved is only one per cent of what we aspire for"

Besides business there is very little that keeps him occupied. When he is not involved in it directly or physically, he is thinking about it. But there is something that plays on his mind more often these days and that is politics.

"There will soon be a day in my life when I will shun my active business life to take up things that are satisfying in a different sense over a period of time. I want to serve people through politics by eliminating the muck out of the system. I have faced enough problems due to this during my early days. And moreover, after a point it is the act of giving that gives you more pleasure than that of taking. I think I will reach that point in five or six years, so I have already started planning in this regard. I will delegate all responsibilities to Nityanand," he muses with satisfaction. But till then work remains his only focus as he continues to scale newer heights of success with the same passion and zeal with which he started off two decades back.

"After a point it is the act of giving that gives you pleasure than that of taking "

He sticks to his mantra- if you keep calculating profit you will lose sight of your goal. Just make sure that you work with conviction and honesty.

But one cannot deny the satisfaction of having done ‘the right thing’. No wonder his 2,500 plus workers are all praise for the generosity of one who is also one of the highest taxpayers of the city. Besides business his family keeps him busy too.

"He has given us a lot of freedom. This confidence comes from the fact that he is never afraid of failure himself. We really don’t have to look for a role model elsewhere. He is the one, right amongst us," beams his younger son Harsh with his brother Navin nodding in agreement.

So, to sum up, Surendra Sinha today, with the way his business graph has shaped up and from the feedback gathered about him as a person, has proved beyond a doubt that for attaining success in life, first and foremost, it is important to be a good human being.