Being a Gujarati, I’ve always been assumed to be a miser and an astute businesswoman. While the former is true in many respects (lets just say I will avoid treating people as long as I can :P) , the DNA string for the latter unfortunately didn’t pass on undiluted. With parents in the academia, grandparents in government jobs and most cousins and relatives doing the regular grind in the corporate world, we are far removed from the ‘bijness’ side of life. While we really wish we had the business smarts and the drive to become an Ambani, fact is that we really struggle to even bargain with the auto-wala.
Now my dad is a doctor and spends 85% of his ‘free time’ studying or reading and is a true-blue student at heart, but since he runs his own clinic, he’s also self-employed and takes it upon himself to keep pushing us to do become entrepreneurs and do justice to the blood-line.
Being a self-employed person is a huge deal for Gujaratis (“potanu dhandu thaavu joiye”) and I see this in practice more than ever, now that I’m in Mumbai. Women converting their living rooms into aerobics studios in the day and kitchens into cooking class-rooms by evening. 24X7 tailor businesses started in a tiny pigeonhole by the side of a call-center, tiny kirana retailers who make as much money from margins of FMCG products as from the cartons they come in… and the list goes on.
A huge part of this can be attributed to genetics and history. The Gujaratis have a long tradition of seafaring and overseas migration to foreign lands, since local mercantile culture resulted naturally from the state’s proximity to the Arabian Sea. This has given them the reputation of being some of the best merchants in the country.
Here is my 5 point take on why Gujarati’s totally rock business and what we (or I) can learn from them:
1. No work is bad work.
Gujaratis arent picky about career choices. Most of us let our educational degrees define our career path, but a Gujarati might do engineering and still run a parlour if it makes financial sense. There is merit in applying the learnings of education (rather than a degree) in career choices than drive it the other way round.
2. Save money when you can.
While a lot of people might write us off as being stingy, we’re actually prudent (the larger community actually, not so much me!). Save while you can and spend on what will give you genuine value. Don’t invest in what you don’t need at the moment and make do with what you have. As some Gujarati once said, ‘The best things in life are the cheapest’ 😉
3. Dont shirk the work.
Gujaratis are the original start-up guys in this country and know the value of burning the midnight oil. Most Gujaratis have a never-retire policy till they are able and healthy. While this isn’t community specific, working hard and perseverance is the stuff success stories are made of. Its a necessary ingredient and isn’t just a good-to-have and shirkers rarely bait the fish in the end.
Another start-up rule. Don’t put all your theplas in one basket. Experiment, be open to changing your best idea and adapt to succeed. There’s a reason why Mr. Patel decided to sell samosas at Mt. Titlis and is hugely successful at that!
5. Value your people.
Gujaratis value dignity of labour and calculate their impact basis the value they bring to your business. I’ve seen this to be true in a lot of great business-people. An American boss once told me ‘ always be nice to the people who work for you… they might become your boss one day’.
Now that I’m on the ‘own-business’ trail, living amongst such an enterprising community is just the inspiration I need to trudge along and make a mark.
Pappa is going to be happy.