An inspiring story of "Karsanbhai Patel" Man Behind Nirma

An inspiring story of "Karsanbhai Patel" Man Behind Nirma

Karsanbhai Patel” you may not have heard this name, however,  I’m sure you must have heard the name of the company he started.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Pearl.

Everyone remembers an advertisement featuring his daughter in a white frock with a punching line ‘Sabki Pasand Nirma’

Yes, I’m talking about Nirma ( A washing powder company). Certainly, the brand didn’t become what it is today in one day. It’s the result of both hard work & smart work.

The businessman who made this brand what it is today had lived his childhood in poverty. He could not acquire any business degree. Nevertheless, today with his hard work & extraordinary thinking he is certainly one of the most successful entrepreneurs. That person is  Karsanbhai Patel.

Image : (L) - Reddif; (R) - India Case Laws

After the death of the daughter Nirupama, in her memory, Karsanbhai Patel started his own washing powder company by her name. Based on his in chemistry degree, he built this washing powder in his own backyard.

He did door to door selling every day while going & returning from office on a bicycle. Patel was able to sell about 15-20 packets a day on his way to the office, some 15 km away.  .He continued in this fashion for 3 years during which he got a chance to built his consumer base and also improved his product.

In 1969,  in an era when India’s domestic detergent market had very few players, mainly multinational companies like Hindustan Unilever. Which was selling its Surf at Rs.15 Karsanbhai was selling his washing powder for just 3 Rupees 50 Paise, making the middle class very happy.

In 1972 he finally quit his job at the Gujarat Government’s Department of Mining. and opened a small shop in Ahmadabad in the state of Gujarat. And from here on this product spread like wildfire. As and when his work increased he kept hiring salesmen & workers. And eventually, the product got a strong foothold in Gujarat.

However, outside Gujarat, the product faced a lot of challenges. As the retailers used to take the product on credit & when the salesmen used to come for collections, the retailers used to postpone the payments dates.

Business Standard reports how That time, among big giants this local detergent was not even able to survive. And slowly the sales graph started falling. Hence, Patel ordered all his team members to either ask retailers to clear the payments or just collect all the products from him. Competitors and retailers were shocked, to see this local detergent product disappear overnight.

However, Patel was thinking of a path-breaking idea. During that period India was developing at a great speed and televisions were becoming common in every house. As soon as he got all his goods back he invested all his money in running an advertisement on TV for one whole month. The advertisement was a big hit and created such a big impact, that every common middle-class wanted to buy this detergent.

People started visiting general stores daily, demanding this local detergent, but it wasn’t available anywhere. Retailers got very upset because Patel had stopped all his supplies to them. And on the other side people were increasingly demanding the same detergent. During this situation, Karsanbhai organized a team meeting and while he decides to continue the supply of detergent he also handed them with a terms & conditions paper. That year, sales of Nirma peaked, making it the most sold detergent, way above their nearest rival – Surf of Hindustan Unilever.

In nutshell, it was written, that henceforth, the company will not give any product on credit and will only provide supplies if the retailers make the payment on delivery. This decision changed the brand’s image totally and the Karanbhai joined the elite list of a top businessman.

Today Nirma group has 18,000 employees & has a turnover of approximately
$10+ billion (USD) per year.

Today, Nirma has 400 distributors and over 2 million retail outlets across the country.

After establishing itself in India, Nirma expanded to markets abroad in 1999. Its first foray was into Bangladesh, through a joint venture – Commerce Overseas Limited. Within a year, the brand became the leader in the detergent market in Bangladesh. The company also planned to enter other regions like the Middle East, China, Russia, Africa, and other Asian countries.


Starting as a one-product one-man outfit in 1969, Karsanbhai Patel started selling it locally. He started packing the formulation in a 10x12ft room in his house. The new yellow powder was priced at Rs. 3.50 per kg, at a time when HUL’s Surf was priced at Rs 15. Soon, there was a huge demand for Nirma in Kishnapur (Gujarat), Patel’s hometown. By 1985, Nirma washing powder had become one of the most popular detergent brands in many parts of the country.

Nirma became a Rs 17 billion company within three decades. The company had multi-locational manufacturing facilities, and a broad product portfolio under an umbrella brand – Nirma.

In 2010, Karsanbhai Patel was conferred with Padma Shri.

I read somewhere, the world is full of infinite possibilities and countless opportunities, but your life and career are finite, meaning you have limited time to find what you’re searching for and make your mark on the world. This is your time. It’s limited so don’t waste it. Find something you like to do and just do it. That’s how real entrepreneurs always start. conquer the fear of failure.

There is another Indian entrepreneur whose journey is equally inspiring. Read the highly motivating story of the youngest billionaire in India. Vijay Shekhar Sharma founder of Paytm.