Spice king Dharampal Gulati, founder of MDH, passed away following a cardiac arrest in the wee hours of Thursday. He was 97.
He started MDH spices, which is now almost a staple in nearly every Indian household, as a family business from a small wooden shop in Delhi's Karol Bagh under the name Mahashian Di Hatti (MDH) of Sialkot "Deggi Mirch Wale".
With time and hard work, he established his company Mahashian Di Hatti Private Limited, which does business as MDH.
But the journey was not easy. Born on March 27, 1923, in Sialkot, now Pakistan, Gulati tried his luck in several businesses. He started working at a very young age of 10 in 1933, after he dropped out of Class 5. In 1937, he set up a small business of mirrors with the help of his father, thereafter a soap business and then he went on to take a carpentry job. He also tried his hands as a cloth merchant, and in hardware and rice trading.
But he ended up joining hands with his father in his family business of spices under the name of MDH, popularly known as "Deggi Mirch Wale".
After the partition, he came to India and reached Delhi on September 27, 1947, with just Rs1,500.
Once in India, he started his small business in Delhi, which grew into one of the biggest spice empires of the country over time.
As the business grew bigger, he started philanthropic activities as well with the establishment of a hospital at Subhash Nagar in 1975. What started out as a humble 10-bed establishment, now covers about five acres and boasts of MRI, CT scan, heart, neurosciences, and IVF wing, and often gives free services to the poor.
He also established over 20 schools for underprivileged children.
Gulati was conferred the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award, in 2019 for his contributions in the field of food processing trade and industry.
On Thursday, President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted a photo of himself conferring the honour to Gulati and wrote: "Saddened by the demise of Mahashiyan Di Hatti (MDH) owner Shri Dharampal Gulati ji. He was a well-known industrialist. His social service is also commendable. My condolences to his family and well-wishers."
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia were among several other eminent leaders who expressed their grief over his demise.
Shah called him a kind-hearted gentleman who "was a wonderful symbol of struggle and hard work". "The life of Dharampal ji, who attained the pinnacle of success through his hard work, inspires every person. May God grant salvation to the departed soul and give his family the power to bear this sorrow. Om Shanti," the home minister tweeted in Hindi.
Union Minister Singh tweeted that he was "saddened by the passing away of one of India's most respected businessmen, Mahasri Dharampal ji". "He started small but made a mark for himself. He was very involved in social work and remained active till the last moment. I express my condolences to his family." (roughly translated from Hindi).
Kejriwal said that Dharampal ji was an inspiring personality. "He dedicated his life to society. God bless his soul," he tweeted, retweeting his deputy's post.
"India's most inspiring entrepreneur, MDH owner Dharampal mahashay passed away this morning. I have never met such an inspiring and lively soul. May his soul rest in peace," Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia tweeted with pictures of the two together.