In Hindu societies, priests are at the top of the hierarchy, followed by warrior caste, merchant and daily workers. At the bottom of the social ladder is the last group—people who are not, in a sense, even part of the system. Historically called Untouchables, they are today known as Dalits, and are often consigned to the lowest rung for life.

Contrary to popular belief, the Hindu caste system has been somewhat fluid across time, with daily workers on occasion being elevated to the priesthood, and Brahmins being degraded to daily workers. The system was made rigid during British rule in order to divide and conquer India. After independence, Indian politicians assumed the role of the British, continuing their policies of divide and conquer.

It was only in the 1990s, when globalization coupled with centuries of hard-fought social freedom, enabled the rise of untouchables. But in a man’s world, a woman needs to work much harder and overcome more obstacles. One such woman is Kalpana Saroj. We talked with Kalpana about her extraordinary journey from being a child bride to a CEO, as well as the future of female entrepreneurs in India.

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