Mumbai: Rajesh Saraiya might be a name that is not known to many but for the people of his community, he is their superhero. Rajesh is India's first Dalit billionaire.
Born in a middle class family in Dehradun, Rajesh studied aeronautical engineering in Russia. Now based in Ukraine, he runs a multi-national company SteelMont Pvt Ltd that deals in metals.
"People have to change from inside. They have to change their ideology, their mentality and look around the world for what is happening. There are so many opportunities," Saraiya says.
At a conference organised by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries that aims to bring together Dalit entrepreneurs, there are many success stories.
Saraiya's story is one of them. However, despite being a great achievement, it doesn't reflect the larger Dalit reality.
According to the National Commission for Enterprises in the unorganized sector, 88 per cent of Dalits and Adivasis were spending less than Rs 20 a day in 2007.
In their own words, the event is not about the past but the future and the aim of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries is just that - to provide a platform to Dalit entrepreneurs.
"Dalits are second to none as far as intelligence and entrepreneurship is concerned. We only have to give them an opportunity," says J J Irani, Director, Tata Sons.
"We have been trying to bring together Dalit businessmen since 2003. After 2005 we changed the name and formed the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries," adds Milind Kamble, Chairman, DICCI.
Rajesh may be the first Dalit billionaire but given the success stories at this conference, there are bound to be many more 'Rajeshs' in the near future.