Saturday, December 17, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Dalit trade fair: A celebration of pursuit

Dalit trade fair: A celebration of pursuit

Rajanya Bose Dec 16, 2011

Mumbai: The second such fair exclusively for Dalit traders was
organised today by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The event was, however, much more than a fair. It was an exhibition of
the business prowess of the Dalits entrepreneurs, a celebration of the
journey they have made.

The chief guest of the function was Adi Godrej, Chairman, Godrej
Group. In choosing him to grace the event, the organisers portrayed
their aspiration of being on the same footing as the Tatas and Godrejs
of India, who come with a long family history in entrepreneurship.

Milind Kamble, the chairman of Dicci. Screengrab/

As Milind Kamble, the chairman of Dicci told Firstpost, "We are first
generation entrepreneurs with no history of business unlike most
family businesses today in India. So we have come together to support
each other, promote, network and market Dalit businesses

Kamble explains that the big business houses are the ones which can
provide the guidance to those involved in small aspiring enterprises.
The three-day fair has presentations and seminars lined up by big
business houses to explain what it needs to be a vendor or a supplier
for them.

The new generation of Dalit entrepreneurs has nothing against
reservation for SC and STs, nor is it scornful of the "upper caste."
They realise that success has come only to a handful, the rest still
need government support.

The fair was a recognition of the fact that these Dalit businessmen
had come so far on merit and not on the back of reservation in
different institutions. And they were equal contributors to the
nation's growth, reflected in the taxes they paid.

It does not stop just there. As Kamble explained, all Dicci members
have to follow what they call DSR or Dalit Social Responsibility by
which all Dalit entrepreneurs must give back a part of their profit to
the enhancement of the backward castes.

As Adi Godrej put it, "What is more inspiring is a lot of these
businesses are involved in training and skill building. The major
problem in India is not just unemployment but 'unemployability'. And
entrepreneurship is key to India as all of us cannot just ask for jobs
but need to provide jobs."

There are challenges to be met though. Ashok Karne, promoter of
Maitreyee hydro systems, a company that makes sauna and steam bath
pumps with a turnover of around Rs 35 lakh said funding remained the
major issue.

Bank loans are tough to get as most Dalits are also financially weak
and do not have the required collaterals.

Kamble admits, "Access to debt and capital markets remains the biggest
impediment that needs to be overcome."

Dicci is now planning to launch its own venture capital fund in 2012
to help its members.

The trade fair went much beyond being just a platform for networking
and showcasing the businesses to potential clients.

As Chandrabhan Prasad, a noted Dalit writer said at the inauguration,
"There was a time when we were not allowed to use umbrellas when we
walked even in heat. This exhibition is a celebration of where we
started and where we have come." It indeed was.


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