School dropout to highest-paid CEO: MDH's Dharampal Gulati saw it all

Topics Spices export | MDH | Amritsar

Dharampal Gulati was once India’s highest-paid consumer product CEO.
Mahashay Dharampal Gulati, the owner of MDH passed away in the wee hours of Thursday. The 98-year-old had recently defeated coronavirus before succumbing to a heart attack.

Gulati was undergoing treatment at a hospital in New Delhi where he suffered a cardiac arrest on December 3 morning. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ina tweet said that “Dharm Pal ji was very inspiring personality” who “dedicated his life for the society”.
Mahashay was also referred to as "masala king" and had cast a niche with his brand of spices not only in India but across the world. Born in 1923 in Sialkot (now Pakistan), he migrated to India with his parents during partition after India gained Independence in 1947. Before moving to Delhi, the family spent their initial years in a refugee camp in Amritsar.

The MDH company also found its roots in Pakistan, where Mahashay's father opened a small spice shop by the name of "Mahashiya di hatti" in 1919, which later became one of the largest spice manufacturers in India valued at over Rs 15,000 crore.

Dharampal Gulati was once India’s highest-paid consumer product CEO as the fifth grade school dropout took home more than Rs 21 crore as salary in 2017. Gulati was actively involved in the functioning of the company even in his 90s and was known for making daily rounds to the factories, markets, and the company. He held 80 per cent stake in MDH.

In an interview with The Economic Times in 2017, he said, "My motivation to work is being sincere in product quality sold at affordable prices. And nearly 90 per cent of my salary goes to charity in my personal capacity."

Gulati emerged as a brand face for the company over the years driving the sales as the elderly figure who forced his way into all their advertisements. The turban-clad venerable Mahashay Dharampal stood out for this traditional quality, trust, and experience of years.

From a small shop in Sialkot, MDH today has offices in Dubai and London and exports to about 100 countries. The day to day operations are handled by Mahashay's son and his six daughters handle distribution.

Mahashay was conferred with the third-highest civilian honour of the country, the Padma Bhushan by the Narendra Modi government in 2019.

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