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Updated: September 7, 2012 11:28 IST

‘It’s tough for Dalits to enter hospitality and hotel sectors’

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Raja Nayak.
Raja Nayak.

TALKING POINT DICCI chief on how caste groupings come in the way of Dalit entrepreneurship

The recent launch of the Karnataka Chapter of the Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) has generated interest not just among industry watchers but also among entrepreneurs from traditionally marginalised communities.

Raja Nayak, president of DICCI-Karnataka, speaks to The Hindu about the fledgling trade body’s aims and challenges.


Q. How do you plan to promote Dalit capitalists in the State?

A. Karnataka is the 18th State where a DICCI unit has been set up. Our first objective is to have district-level units.

We will be starting one in Mysore within one month. Belgaum and Gulbarga will follow. Dalit entrepreneurs are very excited; we have been getting several enquiries.

Our slogan is, ‘Become job givers not jobseekers’. Most Dalits continue to depend on the government for jobs: we want them to come out of that mentality.

We plan to create awareness about the many Union and State government schemes for promotion of Dalit entrepreneurship. Hundreds of crores of rupees worth of government schemes for Dalits are not availed of.

What sectors have Dalits in Karnataka managed to succeed?

Of the few Dalit businessmen there are, most are in the garment and leather processing sectors. In Gulbarga and Bijapur, there are many Dalits in the dry fruits business. But they all lack proper networks and facilities. Most often they are exploited by middlemen and agents. There is a small population of entrepreneurs in the IT and ITeS sector.

It is well established that some castes among Dalits are more backward and have faced greater injustices. Which castes and sub-castes do the State’s Dalit entrepreneurs mostly come from?

We have some broad ideas about the backgrounds of Dalits in business. But we are planning to conduct studies to understand these dynamics better. The study will also give us statistics about which Scheduled Castes have managed to succeed in trade and commerce.

Several trades continue to be ferociously guarded by certain castes, clans and communities. How tough is it for Dalits to make inroads?

The toughest sector for Dalits to enter is hospitality and hotels. People are still conscious about the caste of the person cooking their food. In fact, most Dalits find it extremely hard to penetrate the food and food processing industries. Agricultural produce marketing also has an apartheid-like system. Most traditional sectors of trade and manufacturing are out of bounds for Dalits as they are protected by certain dominant caste groupings. Modern industries, such as IT, are far more welcoming.

Is that why you embrace neo-liberalism?

Yes, global and modern industries are caste-blind. Neo-liberalism has the potential to reform an outdated, semi-feudal economy that revolves around caste. What we really want is supplies diversity in the procurement process. Large corporations should actively seek out Dalit suppliers. The Tatas have already pledged that 20 per cent of all their procurements will be from Dalit suppliers.

We want the government to relax tender norms. When a government agency says that only a firm with Rs. 100 crore turnover can participate in a tender, it immediately alienates several Dalit businessmen. We want relaxation of certain criteria, not reservation.

And there need not be any compromise on the quality of deliverables.

The main problem for aspiring Dalit entrepreneurs continues to be seed capital and networks.

We are working in that regard. We will soon have a venture capital arm within the DICCI. We also hope to pressure Union and State governments to come forward and fund Dalit ventures.

More In: Mangalore

Now this is progressive thinking....I see great future for India since currently marginalized section of society will provide power to economic sector of India....You cannot get rich by jobs, you have to be an entrepreneur and then help others....Best Wishes I hope every third person in India dreams about being self-employed...

from:  Anubhav
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 21:04 IST

..Good Initiative ,Nayak ! Success to you ! But as Sociologist Srinivas
says it is Sanskritisation that prevents Dalits embracing fellow Dalits
once they go up in ladder !

from:  Prof.R.Krishanmurthy
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 21:03 IST

I believe Dalits have better chance at entrepreneurship as they are not bogged down by caste consideration. Example amongst us Kayasth entrepreneurs are strictly discouraged as we are only supposed to do govt, private jobs. A Kayasth if he starts business is told "Your business is bound to fail as you are Kayasth". This has prevented 100's of entrepreneurs from going forward.

from:  Shaleen Mathur
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 16:31 IST

A great initiative! This is just so much difference than the caste based reservation and
also effective. The only reason for its success I think is that there is no politics, but only
intelligence,hard work and motivation involved.

I am really sorry to hear about the non-acceptance of Dalit entrepreneurs in Hospitality
and Restaurant business. Personally I only care for good food, irrespective of who made
it and I think most customers do not care. Its most likely the owners/managers at these
places who create the barrier, which should be highlighted and investigated. I am equally
surprised about the IT sector. I have worked for so many years and never faced such a
thing in work environment. Again possibly its with the entrepreneurs who want to start
their own.

All in all, this should be the way our brothers and sisters from backward community should
be inspired and given opportunities to prove their worth on their own and not rely on petty
politicians to fight for them!

from:  Abhishek Dwivedi
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 15:23 IST

the move to encorage Dalit partcipation in business ventures and emplyment creation is a welcome alternative to the reservations which failed to achieve thier desired objectives. However I could'nt understand notion of non-acceptance of Dalit entrepreneurs in hospitality and restaurent business. I don't think anybody would enquire first if that hotel is owned by a Dalit and then decide to eat or not eat there. This may be true in village kiosks where every body knows every one's cast. But in towns and cities nobody bothers.

from:  ssatya
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 14:11 IST

My best wishes to you and your team Mr. Nayak.

from:  Abhinav
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 13:53 IST

What ails Dalit entrepreneurship also ails any entrepreneurship in the same economic bracket, by all accounts in this article. So, without using the "caste" card, how are the Dalits going to present their case as one needing special attention?

from:  B S Kumar
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 13:30 IST

Caste is so deep rooted in Indian psyche,no wonder hospitality industry
remains in the domain of upper castes.Strange,even in the Non-Veg
caterings,dalits are far and few.
If it's a Muslim run restaurant,even upper caste hindus enjoy its food
but mention,the cook is a harijan,acceptance not shown.
Let many more Raja Nayaks come on to the forefront and take dalits
forward,in self employment.
Caste Hindus have no compunctions about the money if it comes from the
hands of a harijan and so the best way is beat them with financial
prosperity.For that education should be the tool.
Let harijan leaders take the message of education to every harijan
family and draw them to schools and colleges.Financial strength will
automatically happen.

from:  Narendar Kesav
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 13:25 IST

I hope in course of time you will break the walls of caste. Come out of dalit union, dalit entrepreneurs, dalit businessmen, etc. mentality. You will be living in primitive days if you still follow caste divisions.

from:  Paranthaman Muniyandi
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 13:16 IST

well, it's a very good initiative taken in order to the upliftment of marginalised communities. The depressed communities those have been exploited for centuris and can't think about starting of there own venture's because they don't have the reqired money and also have to deal with the social discrimination. The time has come that we should'nt look for the gov. jobs but we should be in a position to create job's for other's.i highely appricate the tatas steps for the upliftment of poor but i hope to see all other corporate houses to coming forward. I aggre that globalisation/ neo-liberalism, up to some extent had helped us in the eradication of untouchability but at the same time i also feel that still we have a long way to 'GO'.

from:  suneel
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 13:03 IST

Dear Mr Raja Nayak,Good initiative. Best wishes for success. Suggest appeal dalit investors to raise fund for entrepreneurship.

from:  Er. M C Prasad
Posted on: Sep 7, 2012 at 12:53 IST
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