November 23, 2017


Life unfolds itself through you. There is no rationale behind how I met diamond baron Govindbhai Dholakia, Chairman, Shree Ramkrishna Export (SRK), of Surat. It was 2012, and my friend Mani Iyer, who was trying to start a technology incubation fund, took me to him seeking investment. The fund never materialized but I became a buddy of Govindbhai in this process.

Govindbhai’s rags to riches story enchanted me and I found his practical philanthropy unbelievable. I shared this with Dr Kalam, who came to Surat and met Govindbhai. This meeting led to the creation of the SRK Knowledge Foundation and SRK-Kalam Healthcare project, which was India’s first population health study that covered 100,000 people in the Amreli district of Saurashtra, Gujarat, at their doorstep.

Govindbhai constituted the ‘Santokbaa Humanitarian Award’ in the memory of his mother. It was conferred upon luminaries every year since 2006, including Sam Pitroda (2006), Verghese Kurien (2008), MS Swaminathan (2011), Lord Bhikhu Parekh (2013) and Dalai Lama (2014), amongst others.

In 2016, the Award was conferred upon Ratan Tata. As he was unable to come to Surat at that time (he visited later), Govindbhai took me to Mumbai to personally give him the award (statuette seen on the table) and a cheque of Rupees 1 crore. For me, meeting Ratan Tata was like a dream come true. When I presented my book, ‘APJ Abdul Kalam: A Life’ to him, Ratan Tata said after a long pause, “After JRD, it was Dr Kalam who understood India correctly.”


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