Dhanda consists of five profiles of eminent Gujarati businessmen. Jaydev Patel, the New York Life Insurance agent credited with having sold policies worth $2.5 billion so far. Bhimjaibhai Patel, credited with establishing “Diamond Nagar” in Surat. Dalpatbhai Patel, the motelier who became a Mayor in USA. Mohanbhai Patel, a former Sheriff of Mumbai, whose account of becoming the leading manufacturer of aluminium collapsible tubes. And finally, Hersha and Hesu Shah, owners of over a hundred hotels in USA. These are profiles based on extensive interviews . Apparently the interviewer Shobha Bhondre interacts closely with her subjects, “understanding them in their social, familial, emotional, and economic settings.” It shows. When reading the profiles, you are completely immersed in the lives of the men profiled, the choices they made, the decisions they took and how it transformed their lives into successful businesses. Some of common traits they share are of hard work, perseverance, pride and constantly keeping themselves updated with the changes and developments taking place in their sector. They come across as fearless, clever and sharp about tackling competition and yet humble enough to recognise who to adopt as their mentors, even if it means they will ultimately be competitors.
The translation by Shalaka Walimbe is smooth, but is unable to completely shed the Gujarati tenor. There is a characteristic manner in which Gujaratis speak, even if it is Hindi. The sentences are short and lilting, but also rapid. This effect has been carried through in the English translation, not that it really takes away from reading the text.
A couple of proofing glitches that immediately popped up in the text. On p.102, motelier Dalpatbhai Patel refers to his wife as “Neeta”, but on p.103 she is referred to as “Nita” and later on the same page as “Neeta”. Then again on p.129, Maganbhai is referred to as “He” at least twice in a sentence, when it should be as “he”.
Nevertheless it is interesting to read profiles of five men who obviously started businesses that ultimately became synonymous with the Gujarati entrepreneurship. This book will sell steadily irrespective of the endorsements it receives. These stories are inspirational, given that many showed their ability to set up independent businesses before liberalisation of the Indian economy. Today a certain entrepreneurial spirit is taken for granted.
23 May 2013
Shobha Bhondre Dhanda: How Gujaratis do Business Translated by Shalaka Walimbe. Random House India, New Delhi, 2013. Pb. pp. Rs. 292. (Ebook also available)