Dharam Pal Gulati, owner of the Rs 2,000-crore Mahashaya Di Hatti (MDH) group, at 95 has just been conferred the Padma Bhushan award for trade and industry. He is probably the world’s oldest ad star. And that’s not his only claim to fame.
Gulati popularly known as “Mahashaya ji” with his patented red turban and white moustache is used to being recognized and claims to love it when children and young people meet him and take pictures and selfies with him.
Gulati, despite being a class fifth dropout, has also been reported as the highest earning CEO in the FMCG sector, according to sources, raking in a salary of above 25 crore INR in the year 2018. Born on 27th March 1923 in the now Pakistan owned Sialkot, Gulati’s story is quite the rags to riches journey. After the Partition, Dharam Pal and his family came to India with barely 1,500 INR to their name. He started work as a horse-cart puller initially, but soon his family gathered enough resources to open a spice shop in Karol Bagh’s Ajmal Khan Road Market.
Business slowly began to thrive and Gulati now has over 18 factories in India and Dubai with MDH spices itself, distributed across the world. The company sells around 62 products and has monopoly claim over 80% of the market share in north India. Even though he will be turning 96 in less than two months, he still visits at least one factory, be it in Delhi or the adjoining regions of Faridabad or Gurgaon, every day. He has six daughters and a son that help him run the masala empire that he’s built.
Gulati says the secret to his long life is his strict diet and regular exercise. He says he is still young while he flexes his muscles and opens his mouth to show his pearly whites. He wakes up at 4 am every morning to walk in Nehru Park, followed with yoga and a frugal but healthy breakfast. He also walks in the evening and at night, post-dinner, and keeps himself updated with news on his phone.
He has always loved the limelight and still does. His house in west Delhi’s Kirti Nagar Industrial area has an entire wall that is covered with his beaming face be it with pictures encased in shiny gold frames, calendars or large cut-outs and one customized clock that traces his life through pictures.
Acting in his own TV commercial happened by accident for Gulati, when the actor slotted to play the bride’s father failed to turn up. “When the director suggested that I play the father instead I thought this would save some money, so I agreed,” Gulati recounts even now. After that, there was no turning back. Gulati has been part of all MDH TV commercials since then. It is evident that India can’t get enough of ‘Dadaji’ and his ‘deggi mirch’.