DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, SO ARE MORALS:
Autobiography of Govind Dholakia
Isn’t it amazing to know that Kishor Kumar, the multi-faceted personality, who mesmerized music lovers across the world with his mellifluous voice was untrained in music? Going back further, we also learn that the great Indian poet and playwright Kalidasa, whose works remain the ultimate benchmark in literature, was an illiterate? One cannot excel in a profession because he/she may have a Ph.D in the topic. Our generation is under the false notion that possession of a doctorate in any topic is the key to the world of knowledge and scholarship. There are hundreds of Ph.Ds in English language in my own home state who could not write even a single sentence without mistake. This is the same case with management, engineering, science, technology or any branch of knowledge. One should have the talent and thirst to learn the topic to excel in any fields of his choice. I don’t know how many among the new generation are familiar with the name Gopalaswami Doraiswami Naidu (G D Naidu for short), the Coimbatore born Miracle Man, who despite being an illiterate, was known as the Edison of India because of his deep knowledge in science and engineering. Naidu (1893-1974) lived during the Licence-Permit Raj era and the powers that ruled the country did not allow him to make his dreams into reality. Naidu was the true Bharat Ratna.
There are very few persons in the country who could be compared to be Naidu. At a time when shaving razors powered by electric motors were a rare instrument even in USA and Europe, Naidu manufactured electric razors for the European market. He is also credited with the design of a people’s car, which if manufactured indigenously would have revolutionised the automobile sector in the country and would have elevated India to a global challenger by the 1960s itself.
Though we had industrialists like JRD Tata, G D Birla, Gujarmal Modi who are credited with building industrial empires, they belonged to a separate class. These personalities had the much needed family background and security to excel. This is no way an underestimation of the capabilities of these men. They were born to be entrepreneurs and wealth creators and nothing would have dissuaded them from their chosen fields. The common factor that links these individuals is their thirst to succeed in life and their appetite to excel. Though they were “born with silver spoons”, they would have ended up as ordinary mortals without their in-born talent- the passion to succeed and help people.
Despite having hundreds of management institutes, India is still struggling to get good managers and entrepreneurs who could turn the fortunes in favour of the country. One has to remember that Ram Nath Goenka, the founder of Indian Express, a newspaper that fought the dictatorial attitude of the most powerful political family in the country, was an uneducated person. Though he never had any formal training in running newspapers or any kind of publications, Goenka strode the Indian newspaper publishing world like a colossus while others watched with awe. The sad thing is that we come to know about the likes of JRD, GD Birla and RNG after their departure from this world. How many of you have seen any interviews/documentaries featuring JRD or RNG or GD Birla or even Aditya Birla? Our public broadcaster Doordarshan had reservations against highlighting the achievements made by these real- life titans. Well, there are books (dozens of them) about the life and times of these people, most of them published after they disappeared from the scene.
“Diamonds Are Forever, So Are Morals” is a unique book featuring the autobiography of Govind Dholakia, who could be termed as the Man With The Midas Touch. What stands out in the book is the openness, honesty and simplicity of a villager from Saurashtra in Gujarat who went on to become the game changer in global diamond trade and who played the crucial role in making Surat the diamond capital of the world. The story of Govind Dholakia, a school drop out who tried his hands in agriculture and later shifted to diamond cutting and polishing to earn a few more rupees to help his family live comfortably, reads like the script of a mega blockbuster. Yes, the suave and silent Govindbhai Dholakia is the super mega star of the Indian corporate world. He did not have any university degrees or MBA from Stanford or Wharton to boast. Now, global business institutes are studying the story of Dholakia’s rise to superstardom from a village in Gujarat.
This is a book that explains how one can be the monarch of everything that he surveys. The language is straight from Govindbhai’s heart. He told his story to two of his friends, Arun Tiwari and Kamlesh Yagnik and the two put together an action packed chronicle of events which could be read only with bated breath. The story of Dholakia is the story of an era. While Dholakia took care of his family and community, he played an important role in converting the deserts in Saurashtra to ever green agricultural farms with the commissioning of Sardar Sarovar Dam. Dholakia’s innocence and honesty stand out in this book. When he takes the readers to the hitherto secretive world of diamond business, he does it in style. Dholakia Ji has mentioned the sources from which he had collected details, thereby adding value to the information he has provided. A rare quality seen in the academia of modern times. Our researchers are known for poaching from books authored by others and claiming the same to be their painstaking efforts. A book that lives up to its name.
Prof Bhikhu Parekh, who wrote the foreword to the book has summed up the life and mission of Govindbhai Dholsakia in style. “Govind’s life is held together by a guiding philosophy of life or what he calls the Triveni of Life. This involves three basic beliefs, namely that honesty and ethics should inform all human activities, that there is a God or an unseen force that permeates everything and finally that the family should be at the centre of one’s life. ‘I want to put God-centred devotion at the core of all my business activities’ says Govind”, writes Prof Parekh.
For Govindbhai, business and creation of wealth are as important as the lives of the members of the community of which he too was a part. While he was setting up the world’s biggest diamond empire, Govindbhai was equally engaged in holding community marriages, setting up hospitals and schools for the less privileged in the society. His social works, to be frank, the corporate social responsibilities, were as important to him as cutting and polishing of diamonds.
The readers are get an insight into the life of the village where he was born and his gradual promotion to Surat, Bombay, New Delhi, Antwerp, Tel Aviv and New York. When Dholakia sobs, he makes the readers too sob and cry. He wanted to be a leader and not a follower and he conquered everything he set his eyes on. He wanted the people around him to be happy and comfortable. For him, what counted most was the happiness of fellow human beings than the magnitude of profits he made out of diamond business.
Dedication and devotion to the job one is doing and finding out new avenues in the chosen field and execution of work in a unique style were Dholak’s forte. The parting of ways between Dholakia and colleagues who started business with him is explained with elan. For Govind Dholakia, the world wad his university and the people whom he came across in day-today life were his classrooms. He mastered the art of cutting and polishing diamond with that unique style and that added value to the diamonds coming from his stable.
What stands out in Govind Dholakia’s life is not his passion to succeed but the commitment and integrity he has for the society. “It was not the ideas of money or powerful and infkuential connections that drove me anymore, it was the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone in the industry,” he concedes. But his enthusiasm to elevate the lives of others and his dedication to save the community from financial ruin by organising mass marriages are proof of his life’s mission. All these come straight from the heart of an ordinary man and that is sure to motivate the reader. The country should have a thousand Govind Dholakias. Here is a role model for our youngsters to emulate and follow.
The 338-page book carries details of many persons with whom Govind Dholakia interacted and the list includes N Gopalaswamy, former Chief Election Commissioner of India and Hasmukh Adia, the veteran bureaucrat. Government of India should make it mandatory that all management institutes in the country should have a compulsory topic on the life and times of Govind Dholakia. We have a real diamond with us and that is Govind Dholakia. He should be honoured with Bharat Ratna as the honour itself would get honoured.