They are dalits. Dalit crorepatis to be precise. And they are here flaunting their crorepati status for a cause-- to promote entrepreneurship amongst dalits and connecting them to mainstream business scene with the motto 'Be job givers, not job seekers'.
To take their motto forward, they on Sunday launched the UP chapter of Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI), getting no less than 74 dalit entrepreneurs from across UP to its fold almost immediately.
"There has been political, social, intellectual leadership of dalits, but they lacked business leadership. DICCI fills that gap," said Milind Kamble, the founder chairman of the DICCI while launching the UP chapter. Kamble founded the chamber in 2005, which now has a number of state chapters - in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra- and 3,000 members.
Almost all the dalit businessmen who came from other states and those who joined the UP chapter are all crorepatis and pay taxes in lakhs and crores annually.
"Almost all of them are first generation entrepreneurs," said Chandra Bhan Prasad, DICCI mentor (think tank) and also a columnist and writer, who lives in Delhi.
"Any samaj (community) that faces tough conditions and struggles long rises. Look at Marwaris who originally hailed from desert and dry land of Rajasthan-Gujarat, look at the Parsis who came from Iran or Sindhis who came from Sindh. They all lived in tough conditions and emerged rich. It is time for Dalits to 'arrive'. In business we are rising on merit," said Kamble.
A large number of participants spoke openly against reservation. "People think Dalits are those who cannot do without reservation, NREGS, midday meals, BPL tag and ration cards. Many Dalits too feel they are an oppressed class. We want to change all this," said Kamble.
After the launch of the UP chapter, there was a session dedicated to success stories.
"I was not educated enough but now I own a couple of hospitals. Initially, doctors were averse to joining my hospital but now many upper caste doctors use influence to get a job in my hospitals," said one of them.
"I was in a government job in Rajasthan where I used to earn Rs. 30,000. Now, I pay Rs. 60,000 per month to my manager who is an upper caste. The taxes I pay run into lakhs," said another.
"A decade ago, I went to a bank for a Rs. 15,000 startup loan. The bank was reluctant but eventually agreed and now it is goading me to take a Rs. 100 crore loan," said yet another.
PL Punia, the chairman of National Commission For Scheduled Castes, was the chief guest at the event. "We need entrepreneurship all the more because Dalits do not have land. It is entrepreneurship that would get them economic power," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Bhagwat Saran Gangwar, UP minister of state of small scale industries and export promotion, said: "The government would do whatever possible to promote or aid Dalit entrepreneurship."
Jayant Krishna, principal consultant and regional head, Tata Consultancy Services, Lucknow said: "I appreciate this endeavour of wealth, values and job creation that is not riding on crutches."