Tumhare Paas Kya hai?
At a recent press-conference with French President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Ghana; Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo gave a profound reply to a question asked by a local reporter. He said that Ghana & Africa needed to get away from the mindset of dependency on Europe and the Western world for aid and support.
He went on to add further that the reason people emigrate to other countries/places is due to failure of opportunity at their native place. But today the younger generations are staying in their respective countries. And they should continue to do so. The primary reason was increase in opportunities or the creation of opportunities to ensure the nation would prosper.
I want to relate that to what has happened in Konkan over the past 40 years. The mid-70’s opened doors and opportunities in the Gulf countries for talent from India who could assist in building these nations. Hoards of Indians from all walks of professional life left for these countries with a hope of better opportunity, better earning and an avenue to improve/better the livelihoods of their loved ones. Hundreds of thousands of Koknis were also part of this migration and have benefitted over these past 40 odd years. They continue to do so.
But every rose has its thorns. If these migrations gave benefits; there were also drawbacks. Like men staying alone for years together with an only aim of earning for their families – fighting pain, sickness, abuse all alone. Wives and children stayed alone counting days, weeks and months awaiting their husbands/fathers to come for vacations. Mothers and fathers waiting years to see their sons. Many missed important events in a person’s lifetime – births of own children, wedding of near and dear ones, funerals of near and dear ones as well as sickness/happiness of near and dear ones. And last but not the least – disconnect with society (social & commercial).
But for how long? For how long should we be dependent on Gulf countries? For how long will we keep coming to these countries? Why can’t we find opportunities in our own country/state/district? Why can’t we create opportunities?
Let me give a couple of examples of how opportunities are “created” from our taluka – Chiplun. Around 15-20 years ago (could be more or less); a young man ‘migrated’ from Kerala to Chiplun in search of “better opportunities”. He identified an opportunity for “bakery products” which will have huge demand in Chiplun taluka as well nearby talukas and districts. Today Kwality Bakers is a leading bakery products company in Konkan.
Around 5-7 years ago, a Rajasthani identified an opportunity for “Pure Indian or Rajasthani” sweets and namkeen in Chiplun and setup “Heera-Panna Sweets”. Today this sweet shop is doing turnover in tens of thousands of rupees daily. And all is cash. The promoters of these ventures are having successful businesses, are earning well, creating value for society and are providing jobs.
Lets us ask ourselves as Koknis; where are we? What do we own? Why didn’t we see such opportunities? Why didn’t we “create” such opportunities? What made us overlook these aspects?
Let me tell you why.
Because we were busy planning when we could arrange visa to go to Gulf. When our abba/mamu/chacha/phuppa could arrange visa and jobs for us. We overlooked the aspect of starting/creating businesses/ventures and create value. We were always afraid of losing; of the risk; having fear of failure. And ofcourse we were busy building bungalows and buying apartments; and spending lakhs if not crores of rupees on weddings and functions.
Today the situations are changing. The opportunities in the Gulf countries are reducing. There are political, social and economical transformations. At the same time opportunities in India are growing. In the near future, there will be huge exodus of Koknis back to India. What will all these people do? What will our younger generation do? What are they thinking? What is the plan?
I remember talking to a student from our village in Jan 2015 (while he was preparing to give SSC exam). I asked him his future plan and he said he was evaluating whether he should do Engineering or not as he heard opportunities in the Gulf region are declining. Imagine a young boy trying to make a career decision not on the basis of his interest but based on the expectation of his ability to get a job in Gulf countries – which was a distant future by about 8 years.
When will this mindset change? Who will guide these youth?
I believe what is required today for Konkan is a different mode of thinking; a different direction; a different mindset.
We need foster local “entrepreneurship”. Or at least a plan in that direction. We need to go back to the roots. Be what our forefathers were. They were entrepreneurs/farmers – whether as paddy growers, milk producers/sellers, traders. We need to be value creators. We need to be job creators – not job seekers.
Konkan is vast with huge amounts of natural resources, agricultural produce, vegetations, fruits, meat & fish amongst others. There are lots of problems being faced in agriculture, healthcare, education, trade, product supply chains. We need to think on solutions, opportunities and avenues to address some of these.
The population of our region is increasing and with growing population comes growing demands for products and services. There is Internet and smartphone boom in the country. We need to look at these factors and plan our path.
Today India ranks one of the highest in the world for fostering entrepreneurship and start-ups. There are many opportunities and avenues. Let’s explore.
We have lot of experienced talent in Konkan – in finance, management, marketing, sales, supply chain, manufacturing, and human resources. All that is required to run successful companies and businesses. Couldn’t we do great things if all these minds come together? And there is no dearth of capital in Konkan. If we combine the total capital of all Koknis, it would run into hundreds of crores if not thousands. And most of it sitting as idle capital – either in bank FD’s, savings accounts or investments in umpteen apartments.
Nobody is born as an entrepreneur. What is important is to try. There will be those who succeed and there will be those who fail. It’s the thought process and actions which makes people entrepreneurs. If you talk to a Marwari today, he will say we have always been “entrepreneurs”. It’s in our blood. Can we say that about us Koknis? I guess not. But yes we can surely say we are “Gulf returned”. That’s surely in our blood!
I am not saying everyone will become an entrepreneur. But at least we start thinking in that direction. And it need not be big and grand. Even small is fine. What is more important is the passion and will to do something different and charting the course to achieve the goals.
Coming back to where I started – migration; there were many from Konkan who did not go to Gulf countries. They stayed back in India, in Konkan. Some of them did jobs. While others created “opportunities” and businesses and avenues. They created value for all stakeholders. They took risks. They have grown by leaps and bounds over the last 30-40 years. They are connected and have provided jobs.
Today they have businesses, and bungalows and apartments, and back balances, and investments, and power, and reputation.
Tumhare Paas Kya hai ???
For more information please write to Gulzar Wangde at email@example.com