As a management student, one gets to attend a lot of high profile events, rub shoulders with various management professionals. I had the opportunity of being a volunteer at the Indore Management Association’s Annual Conclave this year and worked in the Logistics vertical.
In the course of my duties, I got the chance to interview Mr. Milind Kamble. He is an Indian entrepreneur and founder and chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI). Apart from this, he is a member of the planning board of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He was honoured by the Government of India, in 2013, by bestowing on him the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, for his contributions to the fields of trade and industry. He has worked tirelessly for the upliftment of the Dalit community, so as to ensure the development of all sections of the society equally.
Here is a short interview with him.
Q: What drove you to start a separate Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Dalits? Why do you think there was a need for this?
Answer- We as a society are still caste based, although there are signs that we have begun moving away from a Caste to a Class based Society. Having seen leadership thriving amongst Dalits- Political Leadership, Dalit Officers/Employees organising themselves, Social Leadership, Dalit women and students organising themselves, so Dalits in the realm of Religion, “Why Not Dalit Business Leadership”, I asked myself, delivered DICCI.
In the US, Blacks set up their first Business Chamber in 1900-National Negro Business Council”, Black Enterprise- a monthly business journal, is a household name amongst Blacks.
Wish for a day a Fusion will take place; DICCI/FICCI/CII will cease to exist, and even if it does, it may exist like ITC. ITC is no more Indian Tobacco Company, it merely an abbreviation, ITC. Wish for a day KFC is no more ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’, rather, just KFC.
Q: What do you think can be done to ensure that all classes in India progress at par?
Answer- India’s caste orders, by tradition, prevents Dalits from making wealth, creates hurdles, now a nation in transition- towards a Developed Economy, need to give Dalits, market through supplier/dealership diversity, plus credit facilities, these are the two fundamentals of business in all the societies.
Q: What do you think about the future of India, with respect to all inclusive growth?
Answer- The society needs to desegregate, dalits/adivasis to mainstream, post 1990 Economic Reforms, India is on a new course of progress; industrialization, modernity, caste, capitalism can’t co-exist, one will have to wither way; globalisation too mighty, against forces local. Localism too bad for Dalits, Dalits walking the Dalal Street will be the truest narrative of inclusive growth.
Dalits in the country are an asset. Initially, they were service providers to the society, but now, we are galvanizing them to become job givers, not job seekers.
We are working for inclusion of disadvantaged sections in mainstream society.
Q: What all projects are you working on currently?
Answer- Our biggest project is making business fashionable amongst the community.
Working to create policy support system to first generation businessman.
Working closely on #StandUpIndia programme to create 1.25 lakh SC/ST entrepreneurs through 1.25 lakh bank branches in the country.
My dream is to create 100 Dalit businessman rupee billionaire.
Q: What made you switch from hardcore engineering to entrepreneurship? What is your motivation, or driving force?
Answer- While completing my civil engineering, I looked around the community that thought a government job was the only option, saw Dalit engineers/doctors/civil servants doing well, but saw none riding a Mercedes, BMW.
Once at the Pune railway station, saw the Fortune Magazine with 500 Billionaire list, “Can a Dalit ever join this list?”, I thought and, got the answer, “If at all a Dalit has to turn a Billionaire, it has to be only through business, in less than three month-thinking, and quitting the well-paying job, to start an enterprise, here I am now”.
Ques: What would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs of India?
Answer: My own life experience, between a government job and enterprise, Dalits are most likely to succeed in businesses. Government vacancies are limited, business opportunities, are limitless, my message to the budding entrepreneurs-
“Always be Passionate, never lose patience, always deal in white, keep books clean, pay taxes on time, things will come to you.”
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.