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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Diamond magnate sends son to struggle on streets!

Dravya Dholakia in his labour accommodation in Kochi

The Surat-based Gujarati businessman wants his personal philosophy, values and ethics to run in the family, so he recently sent his 21-year-old son Dravya Dholakia to the south Indian city of Kochi -- incognito, mind you - to work at odd jobs.

Indian diamond merchant Savji Dholakia, who rewards his hardworking employees with cars, jewellery and even apartments, presides over an empire worth Rs60 billion. But that doesn't mean his only son can simply walk in and assume the privileges.

Dravya Dholakia working in a bakery

The Surat-based Gujarati businessman wants his personal philosophy, values and ethics to run in the family, so he recently sent his 21-year-old son Dravya Dholakia to the south Indian city of Kochi -incognito, mind you - to work at odd jobs.

"The idea of sending him thousands of miles away to a totally unfamiliar place was to make him learn life skills," Savji told Khaleej Times from Surat.

Three sets of clothes and Rs7,000 was all that Dravya was allowed during his one-month exile. "He had to endure tough conditions, such as: wash and wear only those three sets of clothes, not touch the pocket money for anything other than an SOS situation, work to eat and live, switch jobs every week and not use the family name or identity," Savji said.

Savji himself had fought all odds to build his vast business empire, which is spread across 71 countries today. Born to a farming family from Amreli in Gujarat's Saurashtra region, Savji was a Class IV drop out who joined his paternal uncle's diamond trade in Surat at the age of 13, and went on form Hari Krishna Exports which employs 9,000 people worldwide.

Dravya Dholakia with the Proxima call centre staff in Kalamassery

"The rationale behind sending Dravya on this expedition was to give him a reality check. I wanted him to understand some harsh facts and how him as to how the poor struggle to get a job and money.

"For millions of people in India, life is an endless struggle and a survival of the fittest. I thought living like an aam aadmi, with no privilege of the family name and wealth to back him up, would help Dravya reflect internally and aid in his self-development," the father said, adding that such "exiles" have become a norm in the family. "Dravya is the fifth person to undergo this lessons of life."

Dravya Dholakia with the owner a stationery who who didn't take money from him for photocopying his CVs for job, and Gaurav Duggal, Chief Administrative Officer of Hari Krishna Exports (red shirt)

For this Business Development student from New York, the self-exile was a huge opportunity to learn the importance of humility, modesty and compassion which, according to his father, was the ultimate outcome of the experience.

To start the challenge, Dravya decided to go to an unfamiliar place where even the language would be new to him. "When he landed in Aluva in Kerala on June 21, he felt like a castaway. New place, new people, new culture, and no food for 36 hours. He was scared initially, but gradually realised how helpful the people are," said Gaurav Duggal, Chief Administrative Officer of Hari Krishna Exports, who went to Kochi to pick up the boy after a month.

"For five days, I had no job, and not even a proper place to stay. After being rejected at 60 places, I was frustrated. I understood what rejection really is, and the value of a job in these days," said Dravya, who lied to his employers that he came to Kochi because he dreamt of working at the naval base there.

Dravya landed his first job in Aarya Restaurant at Cheranelloor, and moved to their bakery division at Kakkanad a week later. To meet the condition of switching jobs every week, he then found a placement in the call centre firm Proxima in Kalamassery, where every staff member needed to make 800 calls a day to break even!

"There were times I had to share a room with four people. It was shoddy and unhygienic. I learned to live on a meal of rice and sambar for Rs40.

"But then, people in Kerala, especially those from the lower middle class, are loving, helpful and extremely humble," Dravya said. His other job offers were from Adidas at Lulu Mall, Edappally; and McDonalds in Vyttila.

For the heir apparent of a thriving global business, the main takeway from the "self-exile" was a shift in his perception of life. "I have given up the craze of obsession and possession. Living with poor people who are ready to share whatever little they have, I have learned the importance of being generous, whether your are rich or poor," said Dravya, who is attending a community retreat at present.

In an $8 million Diwali bonanza in 2014, his father gifted Fiat Punto Evo cars to 424 of his best employees, two bedroom apartments to 207 and jewellery to 570 employees.

"I lived in a place where they did not speak my language. But they gave me so much love. We all spoke the language of the heart, the medium of humility," he added.

"The experience has given me the strength to keep fighting on in any kind of situation or circumstances. No rejection can stop me from achieving my goals."

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