- Post date:
- Monday, 2 October 2017
Hardeep Rai’s life changed when his son Eshan was born with multiple disabilities. Already a successful businessman, Hardeep decided to make a radical career change and set up Kaleidoscope, a company that invests in disabled entrepreneurs.
“When Eshan was born, it was a very, very scary time. Within 60 seconds, Eshan’s heartbeat dropped suddenly from 140 beats per minute to just 60.
My now ex-wife went to theatre for a crash caesarean, but during the birthing process, Eshan lacked oxygen for 17 minutes. This caused a global injury around his brain, meaning there wasn’t one characteristic that was knocked out – it was everything.
“Within seconds of his birth, we realised that our lives were going to change and I instantly felt like I was on another planet, in another world. I didn’t think it was actually happening to me and I felt very alone. It seemed like there was nobody that understood what we were going through.
“Today, Eshan is 11 years old and he lives at RNIB Pears Centre in Coventry. He is a very happy-go-lucky child and his favourite things are music therapy, parachute class and hydrotherapy. But there are a lot of things he is unable to do – for instance, he can’t walk, talk or feed himself. He is also severely visually impaired. Although his body is that of a nine-year old, mentally he is around one to 18 months.
A positive impact
“Eshan has changed my life significantly for the better. One of the biggest things that I have had to do is learn how he communicates. It is very difficult for him to communicate, so you have to keep watching him to understand what he’s trying to do.
“It is this experience with my son that has really helped me to understand people with disabilities on a much larger scale. If Eshan hadn’t been born the way he was, I would never have realised that. I think he’s had a phenomenally positive impact on me and my life.
“Until that point, I’d worked in hedge funds and private equity. But when Eshan was born, I knew I wanted to do something related to disability, but I wasn’t quite sure what.
“Previously, I had managed to work with a man called James Caan who used to be on Dragon’s Den. He taught me about business and start-ups. It was then that I thought to myself: ‘I have this experience, I know how to raise money, I know how to start businesses, why don’t I channel that through the disability route?’
“So in 2014, I set up Kaleidoscope with my current business partner, Shane Bratby. Shane has a condition called Friedreich’s ataxia, which means he uses an electric wheelchair. He was instrumental in helping me to realise how difficult it was for disabled people to start businesses or to be taken seriously when it comes to business.
“Through the business, I wanted to create a platform through which people with disabilities could communicate in a way that was fairer, more equitable and meant they weren’t just being looked upon as charitable. I wanted to create a company that allowed all people’s ideas to be seen as worthy of proper investment and to be taken seriously.
“My mum would always say to me that you had to see the good in things even if it was a bad situation. It’s a simple lesson, but something that people can apply during a time of difficulty. If everyone saw the good, I think the world would be a much more positive place.”
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