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The art of building money-spinners

Book Review - Dhandha: How Gujaratis Do Business


KS NARAYANAN | New Delhi, July 12, 2013 12:40
Tags : Dhandha: How Gujaratis Do Business | Shobha Bondre | The art of building money-spinners |

Gujarat of late has been hitting the headlines for many right and wrong reasons. However Gujarat is not limited to mission, omission and commission of its Chief Minister Narendra Modi who has been recently elevated as chairman of BJP’s National Election Campaign Committee and is nurturing Prime Ministerial ambitions. Nor is it limited to the lions in Gir forest, colourful Kutch and so on.

Dhanda: How Gujaratis do Business, originally written in Marathi by Shobha Bondre and translated by Shalaka Walimbe, focusses on lives of five Gujaratis who rose against all odds to succeed in India and abroad. The stories celebrate Gujju businessmen and their sharp acumen; it could also provide inspiration to all Gujaratis and other  Indians.

Dhandha, meaning business, is a term often used in common parlance in India. But there is no other community that fully embodies what the term stands for than the Gujaratis. Innately business-minded and highly persevering, their entrepreneurial spirit has led them to taste enviable success.

Bondres profiles a select few among hundreds of entrepreneurs in India and abroad. The book begins with story of diamond merchant Bhimjibhai Patel, motelier Dalpatbhai Patel who got elected as a Mayor in a US county, Mohanbhai Patel, who we must remember every time we squeeze paste from alluminium collapsible tubes, and Hasu and Hersha Shah, owners of over a hundred hotels in the US, and Jaydev Patel, the New York Life Insurance agent credited with having sold policies worth billions of dollars.

What is common to all these stories is that the hero in each of these chapters carved out business empires from scratch. When Bhimjibhai Patel, who after building a diamond business in India,  wanted to venture into the global diamond trade, a visa officer turned down his request to visit England as he did not speak English. But Patel persisted and pointed out that if the visa officer could work in India without knowing Hindi, he too could do business in UK. After this there was no stopping of Bhimjibhai Patel.

The chapters on each of the business tycoons is well titled: Bhimjibhai Patel (Diamonds are Forever), Mohanbhai Patel (The Circle Of Life), Dalpatbhai Patel (Motelier becomes Mayor), Jaydev Patel (Life Of A Salesman) and Hasu and Hersha Shah (Not Only Potels)With each story the book becomes better with the author using narration from business tycoons and their spouses and their families to illustrate challenges faced by them. Narrating the story of Bhimjibhai Patel, the book goes on to explain the precious stone and its trade over three pages in a rather dry and textbook manner. Instead it should have been in first person how young Bhimji learnt tricks of trade.

At a time when Indians are queuing before MNCs in flocks for better job prospects, a leaf from the life of Mohanbhai Patel is interesting for us to introspect. As Patel was executing his first major order, he was lured, coaxed, bribed with better job offers and later threatened by Cochran Barnett, managing director of Metal Box Company, a leading British firm that produced and supplied collapsible alluminium tubes, to close his business venture. Thanks to his grit and determination, we have a big business house now known as Patel Extrusion Group of Industries.The common thread running in all the stories is determination, perseverance, hard work, courage,  and business sense.

Not only did they excel in their fields of business but also contributed to the community whether in India or in their new home - the US. An incident involving Jaydev Patel is interesting: when he came to rebuild his alma mater- MM High School in Sojitra village. Girls from a neihbouring school complained to him how he was partial to boys. Moved by the conversation, Patel ended up building three schools instead of one school.
Narendra Modi has written the forweard to the book and there is an introduction by the brand ambassador of Gujarat and ‘Big B’ Amitabh Bachchan. One wonders what these two illustrious gentlemen are doing here except as part of a gimmick to promote the book. Except for the picture of the author in the penultimate page, there is not a single picture of those the bok features.

Despite close cooperation from the businessmen and their families who seem to have generously opened up to the novelist-author, the book is nothing but a long narration of events.

Author: Shobha Bondre (Translated by Shalaka Walimbe)

Edition: Paperback

ISBN: 978-8-184-00312-3

Pages: 284

Price: Rs. 199

Publisher: Random House India Edition

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017