Dalit entrepreneurs, who are pushing corporate giants to adopt the supplier diversification programme - buying a portion of raw materials and components from firms run by people from less-privileged communities - have found a supporter in none other than Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata.
To promote enterprise within those communities, dalit entrepreneurs, under the banner of Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI), have recommended that companies can ensure that a certain percentage of procurement, contracts and services are allocated to vendors from the disadvantaged sections to promote enterprise within those communities.
Voicing his support, Tata said that the government should mandate industry to buy a portion of raw materials and components from firms run by people from the backward sections.
"Industry should possibly be mandated by the government - I would support such a move - to help create enterprise, that would be run by the under privileged," said Tata. "You mandate industry to buy 5-10% of the raw material from scheduled cast and scheduled tribe entrepreneurs, subject to quality and price being equal."
The Tata Group has already initiated steps in this direction. "About 46 group companies are working on this," said a group spokesperson. Tata Motors, Tata Power and Tata Steel, who have large vendor base have already taken in some vendors from SC/ST communities.
Companies such as Forbes Marshall and Godrej, too, have taken such steps.
"The government has recently come up with a scheme that mandates 4% of all procurements from Dalit vendors," said Chandra Bhan Prasad, academic-activist who works on this project.