Courtesy The Guardian
An unusually generous boss in the western city of Surat has attracted attention across India for lavishing expensive pre-Diwali gifts on staff at his diamond polishing company. Cars, apartments and diamond jewellery are among the unusual loyalty bonuses handed to employees of Hari Krishna Exports by its chairman, Savjibhai Dholakia.
Of the 1,268 employees rewarded for loyalty and performance, almost 500 opted for Fiat Punto cars, while 207 went for apartments and 570 employees chose jewellery. Such largesse has taken even generous corporate houses in India by surprise, but diamond industry observers detect canny altruism in Dholakia’s gesture of disbursing nearly 500m rupees (£5m) in this manner.
The diamond polishing industry in India has been suffering for a while, so giving away such eye-catching gifts – to be paid for by the company in instalments over the next few years – may help retain talent at a difficult time.
Dholakia, who began Hari Krishna Exports in 1991, said he had earmarked R500m for the staff even before targets were drawn up for this financial year.
“It’s a refund of sorts to those who have stayed with us, helped improve our products and grown with the Hari Krishna family. I am merely giving back,” said the 53-year-old, a primary school dropout from a small village near Amreli in north Gujarat, who moved to Surat as a diamond worker and worked his way up. “I know what it is like to have needs. When a worker is happy, he can do anything at all for you.”
Dholakia’s “rough-to-retail” diamond company has long been a trendsetter. Eight years ago it was the first in Surat to build an on-site kitchen for its nearly 6,000-strong staff, and was also the first to distribute helmets to employees who ride to work on motorbikes.
“Kaka”, as the chairman is known to staff, has also insured 280 employees who have been with the company for more than a decade to the tune of £100,000 each, and ensures that employees’ families get to go on annual pilgrimages at company cost.
Administrative assistant Kanak Patel, 28, has worked with Hari Krishna Exports for the last decade. He believes the bonus culture reflects a wider commitment to staff welfare by the company. “We have gyms and family programmes,” he says. “We have the freedom to meet the management with our suggestions; there are drop-boxes located on each floor to receive our ideas. It’s like a family – I wouldn’t dream of leaving.”
The headline-grabbing loyalty scheme was started two years ago when three cars were given away; last year 70 cars were gifted as incentives.
“We created the hunger among the employees – they work better, they take home better incentives,” Dholakia said.
His company currently exports finished diamonds to more than 50 countries through affiliates in the US, Belgium, UAE and Hong Kong.