NEW DELHI — Thursday marks Diwali, India’s festival of lights, which is a lot like Christmas in the United States. Usually Indians give one another small gifts during Diwali – brightly packed boxes of nuts and sweets, as well as cash and clothing. Some employers give bonuses, too.
But this year Savjibhai Dholakia, chairman of Hari Krishna Exports, celebrated Diwali in a big way — giving cars, apartments and jewelry as festival bonuses to hundreds of his best employees. His generosity set social media abuzz Monday; the jeweler gave 491 employees Fiat cars worth $8,000 each and jewelry to 600 more. A lucky 200 or so even received two-bedroom apartments.
Dholakia is flamboyant but also deeply grateful.
This year, his employees, whom he respectfully calls “diamond engineers,” helped the company reach more than $1 billion in diamond exports, he said. His company exports polished diamonds and jewelry to 72 countries, including the United States.
“My employees worked very hard,” Dholakia said in a telephone interview. “I had to reward them accordingly. I could not hoard all the profits, could I?”
Dholakia, who is in his 50s, is no Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey. He isn’t even a blue-chip industrialist like billionaire Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man. Dholakia is a fourth-grade dropout who began polishing diamonds at age 12 as an apprentice under his uncle. He started his own business in 1992 and now lives with his three brothers in a large joint family compound of 28 people.
He first began giving cars to his employees 18 years ago during Diwali. He started with three. Last year, he gave away 100 cars. Then came 2014. It has been a very, very good year.
The jeweler sees the gifts as kind of the company's in-house loyalty and worker-evaluation program.
“What I do is social business,” Dholakia explained. “I am not a socialist, I am a businessman. But I don’t spend money on charity for strangers. I do social work for the people who toil for my company. I share the profit with the people who created the profit.”
Employee Mukesh Parmar, 36, usually polishes gems with a “calm and peaceful mind.” But on Monday, he nearly lost it when he got his first car.
“If you never even thought of owning a car, and you suddenly get it as a gift, how would you feel?” Parmar asked. “My mother has been excitedly calling friends and neighbors all day and telling them, ‘We have a car, we have a car!’ ”