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Corporate social responsibility: Behind diamond tycoon Savji Dholakia's success when top honchos failed

Savjibhai Dholakia
By Satyakam Mehta
Meet Savjibhai Dholakia, son of a humble agriculturist from Amreli district of Saurashtra region of Gujarat, now heading an industrial trading empire worth Rs 6,000 crore. At a time when top Indian industry captains are still trying to work out modalities of corporate social responsibility (CSR), seeking consultants' and NGOs' "help" for a job which they think has thrust upon them by law, Dholakia has done it without perhaps having heard about it: He has “gifted” his 1,200 employees cars, houses and jewellery to their wives as Diwali bonus!
Dholakia, who has built his diamond polishing and export empire over the last one decade in Surat, told Counterview, that he has “presented” Fiat Punto cars, each costing over Rs 5 lakh, to 500 of his employees. “We surveyed every employee according to his needs. If he had a car but not a house, we arranged that. Somebody who had both, we arranged for jewellery for their wives,” he proudly declared.
Dholakia said the reason he gave such bonanza as bonus to his employees was, he was “one of them one day”. He insisted, “When I started out on my own, I used to cut and polish diamonds. Gradually, I had two-three employees and we all would do the same job. I would sometimes train them and train myself in the process.” One who speaks in Gujarati with Saurashtra accent, Dholakia “ignored” any question this correspondent asked in English language question – and for obvious reasons.
At home...
This correspondent asked him, what is social responsibility (CSR)? He just shrugged and grinned. In fact, he hasn’t bothered to wait for a law on CSR, and he wasn’t even aware. He did not have to either. He revealed, “I gifted some Maruti cars to a select section of staffers when I did’t have much money. This must be early nineties when the Maruti was available for around Rs 52,000… This was my investment. It could be business, but now it also has social spin-offs.”
The industry magnet picks up his cell phone every time, even if a stranger calls. He laughed aloud when this correspondent asked him about this; he replied, “My biggest responsibility is that I have no responsibility, and that’s probably why I am always available.” When his email id was sought, he grinned, “Message me your email and I will ask my staff concerned to mail you what you want. I don’t know how to operate the internet.”
At work...
Dholakia operates in India’s diamond capital of Surat that cuts and polishes 80 per cent of the precious stone exported from the country. His turnover was just about Rs 1 crore in 1991. His father Dhanrajbhai Dholakia was an agriculturist who wasn’t sure about the future of his four sons and, like many others from Saurashtra, especially Amreli district, wanted his sons to shift to Surat to work as labourers in the diamond cutting and polishing industry. Reason: The parched lands of Saurashtra did not give enough income to eke a decent livelihood.
“Father wanted, but I didn’t wish to leave my native village to an unknown destination. But I left school when I was in standard fourth since there were no educational facilities beyond standard five around our village in Amreli district,” Dholakia, who now struts around in a Mercedes which he has not changed for the last one decade (while the family has several versions of the world’s most famous car), informed Counterview.
It was at the age of 13 that Dholakia moved to Surat to engage himself as a diamond worker. He remained an artisan for a decade since then. Then he started on his own, and now his entire family of 28, including his parents, brothers and their families, are part of the entire Hare Krishna Exports. He said he and his four brothers and his two sons all have bonhomie. “There are no contests, no tussles about the control of the company. We all are together and so are our employees,” Savjibhai goes on. “I return to them what we have jointly learnt, what they learnt from me and what they did for the company,” he added.

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