Diamonds Are Forever, So Are Morals–Autobiography of Govind Dholakia

Diamonds are Forever is a Sean Connery starred, James Bond runaway hit movie of 1971. 

Govind Dholakia’s, SRK Diamonds, started in 1970 is among one of the successful diamond companies from Surat, the hub of the global diamond cutting and polishing industry. His autobiography titled Diamonds is foreverso are morals by Arun Tiwari and Kamlesh Yagnik makes an interesting read. 

For the common man diamonds are a dream while for the rich they are matter of pride to possess and display. The diamond trade is full of glitter and glamour to the eye. Surat is the biggest hub of this flourishing industry with a roaring business, making India among the global leaders. But, the trade is viewed with suspicion and perceived as indulged in by people whose sole objective is to rake in money and profits. Instances of some traders leaving banks to hold their debt and fleeing the country like Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi and Jatin Mehta have only lent credence to this.

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Breaking away from this perception and narrating a life story of a person who scaled great height even while scrupulously adhering to moral values is the autobiographical work of 74-year-old Govind Dholakia, the founder of SRK Exports, the $2 billion turnover company from Surat in Gujarat, by authors Arun Tiwari and Kamlesh Yagnik, a long time associate of Dholakia.

The autobiographical work tries to highlight value-based business operations in the diamond trade that is undergoing turbulent times, especially during the past decade following multiple scams, eroding not just the bank money but also trust drawing heavily on personal and professional incidents and examples from Govind Dholakia and his SRK Exports (Shree Ramakrishna) launched in 1970.

When Dholakia comes to Hyderabad

In an interesting gesture Govind Dholakia decided to visit Hyderabad and formally get the book titled Diamonds are forever, So are morals, launched by Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Parshottam Rupali-ji at a function on May 7.

He was respecting the medical condition of Arun Tiwari which curtailed the latter from travelling out of the city. Arun Tiwari, a missile scientist, is well known for Co-authoring, the best seller, Wings of Fire with A P J Abdul Kalam, former President of India and missile scientist.

Narrating the experience in bringing out the life story of Govind Dholakia, Arun Tiwari said, “I made best use of my health constraint and COVID-19. During a period of 18 months, I did 48 sessions on zoom with Govind ji to get most of the material and write.”

The authors have brought out the humane, spiritual, philanthropic and social service facets of Govind Dholakia along with the ‘rags to riches’ story of the building up a big billion dollar company. The point they repeatedly emphasise is that ‘successful businesses can be built on values and illustrate instances from the life of the diamond tycoon.’

Though, not the richest of diamond barons from Surat, Govind Dholakia represents the view that “Values should outshine gems.” His 1000 plus employees of SRK today are totally tobacco-addiction free, well taken care of and form a large and growing family. 

It’s men like Govind Dholakia who are helping the water-starved, Saurashtra region develop and Surat emerge as the biggest centre for diamond trade. The fact to be noted is that, the region has no raw material and everything is imported. The skilled craftsmen cut, polish and export it and earn fame to the country, said Parshottam Rupali-ji. “I hail from his neighbouring village about 10 km and can tell you that SRK’s solar initiatives are bigger and bringing more shine and energy into people’s lives,” he added.

India and diamond trade 

The diamond trade in India dates back to 2,500 years ago, but it started to take off during the 1960s. It was during that period when a teenage boy from the parched areas of Saurashtra in Dudhala village of Amreli district took the plunge into this unknown but challenging field  harbouring dreams of making it big in life for himself and for the society around him.  

The young Govind grew up imbibing the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi as followed by his father and was influenced by the socialist economy of the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru in full earnestness. 

“My livelihood has revolved around diamonds–from polishing roughs to creating facilities to cut and polish them and trading them as gems. I treated diamonds as my God in the physical form-pure, unblemished, transparent and forever. From the hundreds of kilometres deep in the earth to the roughs and finally as glittering gems, as fireball of trapped lights, by their multiple facets inside the pure carbon lattice structure, mounted on crowns and jewellery, diamonds never get altered, like the human soul, that remains untouched by any human act,” he says. 

“I am just a sixth grader with no English speaking abilities, but the lifetime of learning and experiences with diamonds, bring out the flow to communicate with foreigners in global markets to students of IIMA, where I am a regular for the past decade,” Govind recalled.

The authors bring out the interesting nugget of how Govind Dholakia represents a perfect balance between a successful industrialist and a person who knows the Gita by heart. At the age of 16, he memorised all 700 verses of Shreemad Bhagvad Gita in his mother tongue – Gujarati, and quotes them, the Vedas, and Upanishads often in the book

“Even the management students at IIM keep asking and I explain the importance of imbibing values at a young age and practising them in life,” he explains.

Throughput his life Dholakia exhibits a strong resolve to succeed without compromising on his values, which he felt important because the business that he had chosen demanded a higher level of commitment, transparency and fairness. 

In the foreword to the book, Prof Bhikhu Parekh, House of Lords, London writes, “It is common to think that a successful businessperson is rarely a morally decent human being. This autobiography shows the opposite and affirms the old maxim Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam  (Yoga is being successful at managing one’s life).”

In addition to diversifying in a big way into solar energy projects to help the people in rural Saurashtra, the SRK Knowledge Foundation started in 2007 the ‘Santokbaa Manav Ratna Award’. The first award was given to Telecom Guru, Sam Pitroda in 2007. Thereafter, the annual award has been conferred on the Dalai Lama, ISRO ex-chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar, Noble Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Dr M S Swaminathan, Ratan Tata and former chairman of ISRO, A S Kiran Kumar. 

Govind Dholakia has rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful in his life. From Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who praised his work to former US President, Bill Clinton. Meeting spiritual gurus like the Dalai Lama to former Presidents-A P J Abdul Kalam, Pranab Mukherjee and Ramnath Kovind. 

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