The diamond is nature’s rarest and most magnificent miracle whose lustre goes beyond luxury to symbolise purity and sustainability, qualities that reflect in diamantaire Savji Dholakia’s uncommon story. That of a 12-year-old village boy from Gujarat’s Dudhala moving to Surat with stars in his eyes who made a fortune in natural diamonds. Today, he is one of the partners in the diamond manufacturing and exporting house, Hari Krishna Exports Pvt Ltd (HKEPL), with offices in New York, Hong Kong, and Antwerp.
Savji Dholakia’s journey is not about individual achievements alone. Since its founding in 1992, the HK Group has consistently presented natural diamonds in the most exquisite shapes, cuts and sizes for the world to behold. The company’s glory goes beyond manufacturing more than 45,000 carats of diamonds every month and exporting them to 81 countries. Its eminence lies in its dedication to the community more than the business.
From employees’ welfare through medical care, their children’s education, and more, to water conservation and environmentalism, HK Group stands for sustainability, much like natural diamonds. With over 2.4 million trees planted, 75 lakes built, and various blood donation drives conducted, its efforts to give back to the community and the less fortunate have been a legacy.
Excerpts from a conversation with the diamond mogul, where he shares his personal and professional values.
Your legacy in natural diamonds is unparalleled. What makes the gems special to you, and how does the inspiration translate into your work?
Natural is how things should always be. Diamonds signify emotions and love, which the whole world needs and strives for. Anything that exudes emotion and genuine naturalness will always remain pure. The difference between natural diamonds and lab-grown ones is that the former is like nature.
Besides diamonds, you are renowned for philanthropy. Why is it important to you? My inherent nature and intent have always been to bring positive change in people’s lives. Ever since I set up my first diamond cutting and polishing unit in Surat in 1984, I’ve lived by the ideology of caring for those around me. The joy I derived from sharing meals with my colleagues, no matter how little I had, was always inexplicable. Now that I am blessed with abundance, it cannot be anything different. So, I share it with others.
At a more personal level, your initiatives for your employees are quite thoughtful. What inspires you to strive for the well-being of your employees in a largely transactional world?
One can understand their needs only by becoming a part of their world. For over 20 years, I’ve played volleyball with my work family. I have managed to recognize leadership qualities from that and choose the players as senior members of the organisation. The Diamond Marathon in Mumbai ensures our employees stay healthy, and exercising for an hour every day is mandatory. In Surat, every employee must compulsorily invest half an hour in physical fitness — yoga, physical training, cycling, running the marathon, volleyball, cricket, etc.
Ensuring a company’s success and making a difference are arduous tasks. How do you do justice to both?
The inspiration comes from my cousin, who once told me, ‘Our work is neither all social nor all business. This is a social business.’ So, I’ve always maintained that your work will grow if you do good for society. We must not look at our balance sheet. Our work on water conservation or growing trees is not for today. Down the line, people will need pure oxygen and all the efforts we put in now will bear fruit.
When a business flourishes, social work often takes a backseat. What has kept you motivated over the years, especially for your water conservation endeavours?
I think fulfilling someone’s water needs is the noblest deed. My elder brother, Gopalbhai Dholakia, inspired me, saying, ‘If you truly want to make a difference in life, do things with water.’ Since 60 percent of Gujarat’s production is through agriculture, nothing could be better than empowering them, and boosting the economy. So, we decided to construct one lake. I believed in the project so ardently that it gave me the strength to work in the sweltering heat of an arid region like Saurashtra. It was an arduous and challenging task. But when I saw the happiness on people’s faces on receiving water, it seemed worth all the hard work and trouble. That motivated me to make 100 lakes.
Even though that’s a great enough task, you also plant trees zealously…
Yes. That’s because doing good for nature and society is our philosophy, and business is a by-product. I invest a lot of love and care in planting and do it myself, too. I spend more than half of my time planting, and the rest developing the lakes while I overview the business.
We’ve been planting for 20 years now, and have planted approximately 2.4 million trees so far. This year during Diwali, we wanted to encourage people to stop bursting crackers and save the environment. We asked each employee to plant a sapling and had a target of 1 million trees.
Your efforts have been lauded with the Padma Shri Award…
We endeavoured to create 100 lakes, and by March 2022, we had constructed 75. I mentioned this to our PM Narendra Modiji when I met him, and he sent his team to understand the project, its benefits, and impact on society. He asked them to provide him with a comprehensive report and honoured me with the Padma Shri Award.
How does the HK Group envision repaying the diamond industry?
No matter how much I give back to the diamond industry, it will never match what it has given me. So, I express my gratitude by extending any help or support besides the social or environmental work efforts that will benefit those in the diamond industry. But I also believe in making our work inspirational for other diamond companies.
The natural diamond is revered for its eternalness, legend, invincibility, and symbolism as the gift of love. These qualities veritably translate into HK Group’s stature in the gems and jewellery industry. But the colossal organisation’s ethos remains in repaying Mother Nature for what she has given them – a legacy of eternity and a sustainable future, and of course sparkling natural diamonds,