June 19, 2014

Book Review : Dalit Millionaires

Dalit Millionaires by Milind Khandekar

(Book Review was published in the Business World Magazine Dated 30-June-2014)

Success is not served in a platter. One has to work hard and stumble on numerous hurdles and overcome them, before one sees the light of the day. Though this is ‘global-gyaan’ in almost all the management and self-help books on entrepreneurship,  the problems are exacerbated if one belongs to an under privileged class in a country like India with a diverse community set. Bring together the life stories of successpreneurs from such an underprivileged class and what you get is similar to Milind Khandekar's 'Dalit Millionaires' - a collage of 15 Dalit entrepreneurs who have carved their own niche in the society by becoming millionaires and leading their own business empires.

Probably the best symbolism of the success can be seen in the very first chapter on Ashok Khade who owns two pens - one which he bought 30 years back for Rs.3.50 and the Montblanc pen that he owns now for Rs.80,000. The protagonists in each of the chapters recount their own struggles with the 'system' and how they have sometimes benefited and how most of the times their resolve has been their biggest asset which has led them to bigger glories during their journey of life. Be it the 'Food King' Sarath Babu who had to lie to hide his poverty or Devjibhai Makwana who couldn’t buy a plot of land due to the discrimination that he had to face in the society or Savitaben Parmar, who sold half-burnt coals from cloth mills to support her family but is now known as Savitaben Koylawallah to whole of Gujarat, ‘hard work’ is an ingredient that each of our Dalit Heroes keep referring to when asked about their ‘success mantra’.

The story of Kalpana Saroj is probably the most captivating as she sprouts back to life from a suicide attempt after being married off at 12 and harassed by her in-laws, and then almost trampled over in the busy Bombay, was on the cross-hairs of the gangsters, but now owns Kamani Tubes Ltd. Women in The ability of the phoenix to come back to life from its own ashes is a repeating theme in all these stories.

The author is careful enough to point out that, of the 15, only 3 or 4 have benefited from the reservation in place during admissions into the academic institutions or getting a job. And follows it up by saying that almost all the heroes benefited only post-1991, that is the era of liberalization when our economy was opened up for the world market. Though the latter observation is interesting, but is questionable and is probably out-of-place.

The author has interviewed all the heroes at the end of the chapters with the same set of 10 generic questions. The book is an easy read for all those who are thinking of starting something of their own. The author has a small recipe at the end of the book which will help you ponder on your abilities and also some of the processes that needs to be adhered to.

Overall, the book is a quick and easy read and it’s best to read one chapter at a time and relive the lives of the protagonists in each of the chapters. The world of business and entrepreneurship truly honors these heroes.

The book has been translated by Dr.Vandana.R.Singh and Reenu Talwar from Hindi book by the same author titled 'Dalit Karodpati'.
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