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From schools to shampoos and hair-oil to hospitals, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the flamboyant self-styled guru convicted of rape by a court on Friday, runs an empire that would be the envy of any business tycoon. His Dera Sacha Sauda, a quasi-religious cult with hundreds of thousands of followers, offers a wide variety of products and educational and health services, its website states. Often called the guru of bling — a reference to his fondness for colourful robes and glares that glitter — the Dera chief who studied up to the 10th standard runs 11 schools and two colleges, including a management institute, it says. Sacha Sauda — described as the place of real truth — also has factories for confectionery products in its sprawling headquarters on the outskirts of Sirsa City in Haryana, Sirsa residents said. According to the wesbite, the Dera sells hundreds of products, from grocery items and clothes to batteries, mostly under the brand name MSG. MSG is a possible allusion to his 2014 debut film "Messenger of God" or MSG, which he co-produced, directed and acted in. Cinema is another of his passions. He has directed and appeared as the hero in four films so far.
A fifth is slated to be released this year. The Dera claims the films all crossed the Rs 100-crore mark. Food items such as biscuits, toffees and confectioneries are produced by the Dera itself, while most products are manufactured by other groups under the brand name MSG. The Dera also sells cosmetics products — including 9-9 hair-oil and 7-7 shampoo — online. Last year, the MSG All Trading International, a Dera Sacha Sauda firm, introduced 151 products including food items, the site says. The Dera website also states that it runs three hospitals — an ayurvedic centre, a naturopathy institute and a multi- speciality hospital — in Sirsa. The educational institutes are in Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it adds. "Though nominal amounts are charged for the services in hospitals and schools, this is mostly charitable work," a Dera supporter said. The Dera's followers — known as Premis — are believed to be the main consumers of its products. While his products have a ready market, his institutes and hospitals draw others into his fold, a Sirsa resident claims. The guru was convicted earlier today in a 2002 rape case by a CBI court in Panchkula. The conviction triggered widespread violence as his followers went on a rampage. At least 30 people were killed and 250 injured in the violence, arson and police firing.