Dalit Inc. ready to show business can beat caste
P. Vaidyanathan Iyer Posted online: Thu Dec 15 2011, 02:43 hrs
New Delhi : Two days from now, a 1,000-strong club of Dalit
entrepreneurs will showcase their wares over 1 lakh square feet of
space in Mumbai's Bandra Kurla complex. The Rs 2-crore infrastructure
budget for the three-day event beginning December 16 is not without
purpose. It will tell the world that Dalits, given the opportunity,
will beat the caste order with capitalism — and will give much more
than they seek.
Hobnobbing with the Dalit entrepreneurs at the DICCI Trade Fair 2011
will not be the Prime Minister of India, but the czars of India Inc.,
Ratan Tata and Adi Godrej.
"Getting the prime minister for a Dalit gathering is not difficult in
our society. But for Dalit entrepreneurs, taking a photograph with
Tata and Godrej over lunch and tea is an aspiration — and proof that
they have arrived," said Chandrabhan Prasad, mentor, Dalit Indian
Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI), an organisation that was born
as SC, ST Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2003.
In a display of its capitalist credentials, DICCI plans to parade at
the fair about half a dozen Dalit entrepreneurs who have turned
multinationals. "The Dalit community has so many leaders. But we need
business leaders now," said Milind Kamble, who along with four or five
friends conceived the SC, ST Chamber of Commerce and Industry nearly
10 years ago.
"As Dalits, we need a DICCI more than a FICCI (Federation of Indian
Chambers of Commerce and Industry) to develop leadership. Tata and
Godrej are idols for our youth," he said.
Kamble, the son of a school teacher from Latur in Maharashtra, is now
managing director of Fortune Construction, a Rs 101-crore company.
What entrepreneurs desperately need is an umbrella to push their
corporate agenda, Kamble said. According to him, economic reforms and
globalisation actually spurred Dalit entrepreneurship in India.
"It (globalisation) triggered outsourcing of ancillaries," he said.
It was not easy for Kamble and his friends to organise and build
muscle at DICCI. In the initial years, many did not want to disclose
their caste, fearing it would impact their business. But over the last
couple of years, it has become easy to talk to them and convince them.
"The affirmative action agenda of the government as well as industry's
realisation to engage with us has helped," Kamble said.
The Tata Group has booked a large space to display 40-odd products at
the trade fair. "The Tatas want all Dalit entrepreneurs to know what
they can supply to the Tata Group," said Chandrabhan Prasad, who has
been funded by the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the
Advanced Study of India to prepare a list of Dalit entrepreneurs in
"Almost 40 per cent of Tata Motors' parts are outsourced to small
players. Nano's silencer is produced by a Dalit entrepreneur. So are
two-three parts of the Tata Indigo," he pointed out.
Kamble said his organisation is keen to engage in a constructive
dialogue with the Indian government and industry. "The government is
more inclusive today. The new procurement policy that requires 4 per
cent sourcing from Dalit small and medium enterprises is its first
concrete affirmative action. And we cannot afford to hate capitalists
anymore," he said.
Multinationals run by Dalits
Jangal Exports, Ludhiana
A T-shirt exporter with showrooms in London and Dubai. Turnover Rs 70
crore. Owner Malkiat Chand's parents were agriculturists.
Gujarat Pickers, Ahmedabad
Has a sugar mill in Africa. Turnover Rs 380 crore. Owned by Rati Bhai Makwana.
Kamani Tubes, Mumbai
Has a copper unit in the Gulf. Turnover Rs 500 crore. Owner Kalpana
Saroj once worked for Rs 2 a day in a hosiery unit in Mumbai.
Das Offshore Engineers Ltd, Mumbai
Has an oil exploration business in Gulf. Owner Ashok Khade's father
was a cobbler.
Indo Sakura, Bangalore
A software firm with operations in Japan. Turnover $2.5 million. Owner
Atul Paswan's father was a schoolteacher.
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