Hello again everyone,
Just wrapping up another fantastic week at DICCI and what a week it has been!
DICCI is doing some fantastic and incredibly high level policy work in the field of Schedule Caste (Dalits) in India. This is a caste that has historically been surpressed in nearly every field – socially, educationally, and economically, and DICCI under the leadership of my boss and its founder Mr Milind Kamble is really taking their movement of Dalit entrepreneurship to new heights. They have a simple aim, to ‘fight caste with capital’ and in its simplicity lies a strong message. What I’ve gained from my time here so far is simply that the financial systems we live in become the biggest means of neutralizing previously established stigmas and stereotypes about this caste in Indian society. Gandhi himself had seen the problems of this and had aptly renamed this cast as Harijans or ‘gods children’ a name which is fitting – Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar took this further and even made caste discrimination and the special concessions that they need to integrate into an equal Indian society constitutionally mandated (for all of you who haven’t picked up Ramchandra Guha’s book , India after Gandhi – RUN TO THE BOOK STORE NOW. Honestly amongst the most fascinating accounts of Indian history I’ve had the privilege to read).
Yet that caste stigma still lingers like a dark cloud over much of Indian society – something I want to understand more about, and more importantly understand how we can change it
DICCI Haryana Chapter Launch:
Dicci opened its 17th chapter in Haryana and I was lucky enough to go there. It was a quick weekend business trip to Delhi and the success stories I heard there were incredible. It also really opened my eyes to the size and scale of this organization. In 2003 they were founded, 2007 300 members, 2013 3000 members. The growth is exponential. It was also a real testament to how hard the organization is working, the chief guests present were the Chief Minister of Haryana (amidst the highest security I have ever seen in my life) and the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Ms Kumari Selja.
I’d like to touch on Ms Selja’s speech at the event, specifically a line she said ‘Whilst the government was still thinking, DICCI went ahead and forged the path’.
It was an interesting observation in my opinion, on a Indian Government Ministers opinion on the state of progress within the country – that she too agrees that in order to truly fight this caste inequality within Indian society, it would fall upon the shoulders of private organizations.
Following the official opening there was a networking and cocktail reception, where I was introduced to Dalit business owners from every field imaginable. The question remains, that if these entrepreneurs are successful in every field that one can imagine, and when I say successful I mean running businesses with turnovers over 500 million USD a year – why is their success story not one that becomes common place.
The day after the chapter opening I had the chance to meet Mr Nandan Nilekani, the head of the All India Unique Identification Authority – basically a ID card that encompasses every governmental function possible, a daunting task for a country of over a billion people.
Meeting with Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia – DCH Planning Commission, Government of India.
This had to have been the highlight of the trip and quite frankly my year.
Dr Ahluwalia, is one of the reasons that I applied to go into the financial fields. In the period where I was choosing what field I wanted to go into this man nearly single handedly inspired me to go into economics and finance as a whole. One only needs to read a brief history of Indian economics to realize that it was the work of Dr Ahluwalia and Dr Manmohan Singh that nearly single handedly engineered India’s economic growth. They took steps and actions that set the foundation for India’s miracle growth story and brought the economy of this country to the forefront of the globe. He was a man with a fantastic sense of humor but you could see the intelligence and genius behind it – he knew everything about DICCI and its current operations without needing a reminder. Truly said a lot about the person, that regardless of his positions, he still made time and took interests in organisations and individuals regardless of size or status.
I remember writing in my application essay to Penn that he was one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the chance to read about, and that if I could I would tell him that personally one day – unfortunately I couldn’t mention this to him, but in the off chance that he ever does stumble upon this blog post, I’d like to say a few things.
Firstly, I would say thank you. It takes a phenomenal person to be able to motivate a 17 year old to choose a career and an academic field, it takes more to allow him to think at that age that he too is capable of applying to the finest institutions in the world. Dr. Ahluwalia was that person to me, he went to St.Stephen’s in India (the country’s most prestigious economics program) and then to Oxford, he made a country proud by representing them at the one of the finest academic institute in the world – and then decided that he still had more to offer the country. His work in the Planning Commission revolutionized the country I can still call home, and made India a global player – today we have the 2nd largest growth figures, are becoming increasingly competitive and are harnessing the power of our work force in ways that a century ago we would have been scoffed at for even dreaming of.
I never in my wildest dreams thought that my time in Pune would mean meeting this personal hero of mine, and for that I have no one else to thank by Mr Milind Kamble and the team at CASI. You guys really made a dream (and I say this with utmost sincerity) come true.
And again, Dr.Ahluwalia, thank you, for everything.
PSIl post again as soon as i can, work’s great but busy – 6 days a week, 9 hours a day – but i’m loving every minute of it. Shout out to John Paz and Alex Polyak – the boys just got to Pune and we already had a fantastic evening recounting our tales of the summer 🙂
Hope my other CASI interns are having a great time!