On the surface, the diamond trade is full of glitter, but it is often shadowed by suspicion of immoral activities. Yet, there are outliers in the trade, who scaled heights but held on to the high moral ground. That’s the theme of Govindbhai Dholakia’s book. He believes values should outshine gems.

Although the diamond trade in India dates back to 2,500 years ago, it found its niche only in the 1960s – in the field of cutting and polishing. This was the post-Independence time when agriculture was yet to undergo the green revolution. The resource-scarce farming was pushing large-scale migrations from villages to urban pockets in search of livelihood. It was during such challenging times that a teenage boy from the parched terrains of Saurashtra in Dudhala village of Amreli district started harbouring dreams of making it big in life for self and for the society around him.

The life story of diamond baron, Govindbhai Dholakia, 73, gives an inspiring insight about a common man’s triumph in realising the dreams. Titled “Diamonds Are Forever So Are Morals”, the autobiography is told to Arun Tiwari, co-author of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s autobiography, ‘Wings of Fire’ and Dholakia’s long-time associate, Kamlesh Yagnik. It sets the context of value-based business operations in the diamond trade that faced turbulent times during the past decade following multiple scams, eroding not just the bank money but also trust - a scarce currency in the trade.

Growing up in an atmosphere of change, Dholakia saw his father, Laljibhai following the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and “accepted the dream of centralised socialist economy of Jawaharlal Nehru in good faith” though battered by many forces of the times. These forces included the rush for industrialisation, urbanisation, and the struggle to secure basic necessities - food, healthcare, education, and employment. 

As Surat began emerging as a hub of cutting and polishing diamonds at a fraction of what it cost elsewhere in the world, it fuelled a large-scale influx of people from the drought-prone Saurashtra. Patel or Patidars, being mostly an agrarian community, were the first to grab the emerging employment opportunity.

Dholakia showcases a strong resolve to succeed without compromising on his values, which he felt important because the business that he had chosen after dropping out from class-VII at the age of 15, carried the risk of a faster fall from the peak.

In the foreword, Lord Bhikhu Parekh 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).” Govindbhai’s business philosophy - as Parekh describes - is that, although pursuit of money is valuable and has a place in life, human relations far outweigh its value and are priceless.

“I tried to experiment with Mahatma Gandhiji’s teaching - Truth never damages a cause that is just - and found it a great truth. Do not hide, if the facts spoil deals, relations, reputation, so be it. All these things are transitory, ephemeral,” writes Dholakia.

Dholakia strongly follows the Hindu scriptures, especially the Shreemad Bhagvad Gita, which he calls “a way of my life”. 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.

In a lucid, casual, and frank way, he narrates all his life experiences and the learnings from it. Dholakia has five “Go Win Sutras” that declare “the purpose of life as taking the living conditions of the people of the family you are born into at a superior level of living.” He is pretty frank in his admission of his desire to live a wealthy and elite urban life. But, at the same time, he stresses that the desire to succeed, should be accompanied by a fire to work hard and commitment to ethics and honesty.  

No wonder the Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad (IIM-A) invited him to deliver a management lecture and later in 2020, Ahmedabad’s Indus University awarded him with a Honorary Doctorate Degree in Philosophy.

As a payback to society, Dholakia in 2007, institutionalised ‘Santokbaa Manav Ratna Award’ under SRK Knowledge Foundation, a philanthropy arm of his firm, Shree Ram Krishna (SRK) Diamonds. The first award was given to Sam Pitroda in 2007, later followed by the Dalai Lama, ISRO ex-chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar, Noble Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Dr M S Swaminathan, Ratan Tata, among others.

(Rutam Vora is Special Correspondent, BusinessLine, Gujarat Bureau) 

About the Book

Diamonds Are Forever, So Are Morals

Govind Dholakia with Arun Tiwari & Kamlesh Yagnik

Penguin Random House India

₹699; 352 pages

Click the link to check out the book on Amazon