New Delhi: Multimillionaire Ashok Khade did not have even four annas to replace the broken nib of his pen when he was about to sit for his class XI board exams; Kalpana Saroj worked at a hosiery factory for a measly Rs 2 a day before owning a business empire of Rs 1,000 crore.

These inspiring stories are among a collection of profiles of 15 Dalit entrepreneurs who have braved both societal and business pressures to carve out profitable niches for themselves.

The book “Dalit Millionaires: 15 Inspiring Stories” by authors Milind Khandekar, Reenu Talwar, Vandana Singh is a vivid chronicle of how the battle has moved from the village well to the marketplace.

These individuals faced several obstacles only to set up multi-crore business empires in the past few years.

These entrepreneurs are from every sector of the economy. Saroj turned around Mumbai’s Kamani Tubes Limited which had shut down, and transformed it into a profit-making company.

Khade’s company DAS Offshore Engineering Private Limited manufactures platforms used at Bombay High refinery for oil extraction.

Hari Kishan Pippal of Agra runs People’s Heritage Hospital, and Devkinandan Son runs the Taj Plaza hotel, located close to the Taj Mahal. Savitaben Kolsawallah ofAhmedabad makes tiles, while Devjibhai Makwana of Bhavnagar manufactures filament yarn. Sanjay Kshirsagar moved on from a 120-foot tenement and now seems well on his way to become the emperor of a Rs 500 crore firm.

“The success of Dalit businessmen in the 20 years following liberalisation of the economy has come as a ray of hope. Many Dalits have finally been able to achieve economic equality, owing to their own hard work, rather than help from the government,” the book, published by Penguin Books India, says.

Khade’s father mended shoes near Chitra Talkies at Dadar in Mumbai while his mother worked in the fields for 12 annas a day. In 1973, when he had to appear for his class XI board exams, he didn’t have even four annas to replace the nib of his pen. His teacher had to give him the money to have the nib  changed so that he could take the exam.

With sheer determination, Khade moved on and is now the managing director of the company that has a turnover of Rs 140 crore.

Saroj, a child bride, was tortured by her husband’s family and she tried to commit suicide but survived. She moved to Mumbai where she got a job for Rs 60 a month, which was later increased to Rs 225. She then worked her way and now runs a business empire of Rs 1,000 crore.

Pippal, who worked as a labourer in three different companies in Faridabad, and also plied a cycle rickshaw, heads a group of companies that own a hospital, a shoe export factory, a Honda dealership and a publication house.

According to the authors, Dalit businessmen are no longer begging for jobs, they’re actually creating jobs.

“The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an organisation that brings all Dalit entrepreneurs under one umbrella, reveals that Dalit businessmen pay as much as Rs 1700 crore as tax to the government. Their total turnover is Rs 20000 crore and they provide employment to 5 lakh people,” the book says.

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Free Press Journal