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Hari Krishna Exports founder Savji Dholakia (Exclusive Interview)

This spring, Hari Krishna's Dholakia Foundation was the only gem and jewellery organisation to attend the UN 2023 Water Conference, held at UN Headquarters in New York, alongside other attendees including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Deloitte Consulting, Inditex and Gallup.

"I want to ensure our knowledge unites and helps other diamond-producing nations and other countries. I do not want to die until I have solved the water crisis," - Savji Dholakia, the Founder of Hari Krishna Exports

This was the first water conference arranged by the UN since 1977. The Dholakia Foundation has recently completed building 111 lakes in India which conserve 7 billion litres of water, stretching over 100 acres each, which have turned desert into green landscape and which are benefitting the livelihoods of 200,000 farmers. During a Dholakia Foundation gala dinner in New York in the week of the UN 2023 Water Conference, Indian diamond manufacturers Hari Krishna which supplies diamonds to Tiffany & Co. and which is a member of the Watches & Jewellery Initiative 2030 started by Kering and Cartier, announced its Dholakia Foundation is now building 75 further lakes in India in its mission to eliminate drought, disease and economic hardship caused by acute water shortages.

Hari Krishna founder Savjibhai Dholakia is a self-made Indian billionaire, who left school and his village, Dudhala in Gujarat, aged 12 due to water scarcity and poverty, armed with a determination to make his fortune in the diamond industry. "I want to ensure our knowledge unites and helps other diamond-producing nations and other countries. I do not want to die until I have solved the water crisis," he says.

Savjibhai Dholakia is well known for initiating a staff Loyalty Bonus Program which since 2014 has awarded 4600 employees with gifts of houses, cars and jewellery, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi having attended Hari Krishna’s Incentive Ceremony in 2018.

Q. What work is Hari Krishna’s philanthropic arm, the Dholakia Foundation involved in? Our foundation’s core values are the upliftment of society and preserving the environment for the coming generations. To that end, we have an ambitious aim to eradicate the water crisis and make it a thing of the past. I have witnessed first-hand the hardships caused by a lack of water resources, and we are committed to eliminating drought, disease and poverty caused by the shortage of clean water. To achieve this, the foundation has a mammoth lake construction project and recently constructed our 111th lake in India. These lakes conserve 7 billion litres of water, stretch over huge surface areas of 100 acres each, and are constructed over 20 days with trucks working day and night. I am very proud of what we have managed to achieve so far, helping turn desert wasteland into a green landscape and benefitting 200,000 farmers in the process. We want to keep the momentum going and just last week, we pledged to create 75 more such lakes. However, there are still miles to go - I have a dream to eradicate the water crisis in India completely, and I don’t want to die until I realise this vision.

Q. Today Hari Krishna Exports has a turnover of over $1.5 bn. From humble beginnings to a diamond empire, your story is truly an inspiration- how would you describe your journey, and what advice would you have for the younger generations?

I left school at the age of 12 and dreamt of making my fortune in the diamond business after observing poverty around me due largely to the lack of water resources. My first job in the diamond business was cutting and polishing diamonds, and I then progressed to the role of a broker. My entrepreneurial streak remained alive, however, and with the support of my brothers, I started Hari Krishna Exports. I wish to continue our legacy of giving back to society and achieve my dream of eliminating the water crisis and making a difference in millions of lives. Coming from a modest background, I feel it is vital for our second generation to learn the value of money and understand the hardships faced by the common man. In our family, we have a unique way of training our future generation, which I implemented with my nephews and my son Dravya – I gave them 500 rupees. I left them to fend for themselves in a new city with no help and away from the trappings of luxury. This experience has taught them the importance of hard work, self-sufficiency, and the value of money. Additionally, I required them to complete four different jobs in just one month. This experience was a challenge for them as they had to navigate a new city, find work, and complete the tasks without any assistance. They learned to adapt to different situations, communicate effectively with people from various backgrounds, and manage their finances. By requiring them to complete four jobs, they learned the importance of hard work and developed a sense of accomplishment from achieving their goals. Overall, this training method has been effective in instilling important values in our family's future generations. We believe that these experiences will help them develop into responsible, compassionate, and successful individuals who will continue to make a positive impact in the world.

Q. Could you shed some light on The Dholakia Foundation’s association with The Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030 by Kering and #Cartier? The Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030 is a bold initiative by Kering and Cartier, with a vision of creating a fully sustainable watch and jewellery industry through uniting brands that are committed to making a collaborative effort toward furthering the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We recently dedicated a lake to this noble cause and are proud to take on a leadership role in WJI’s water and biodiversity focussed initiatives. The Watch and Jewellery Initiative 2030 (WJI) is an ambitious collaboration spearheaded by Kering and Cartier, aiming to establish a fully sustainable watch and jewellery industry. This initiative unites brands committed to working collectively to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Recently, we named a lake and dedicated it as we joined this noble endeavour and we are honoured to assume a leadership role in WJI's water and biodiversity-centred initiatives. With the Dholakia Foundation - a philanthropic arm of HK Group's extensive experience in constructing river reservoirs, we are well-positioned to raise global awareness about the importance of water conservation. Additionally, we can provide guidance on how individuals and organisations can volunteer or initiate similar efforts in their own communities. Together, we can make a significant difference in preserving our precious water resources and promoting sustainability across the watch and jewellery industry.

Savjibhai Dholakia at Credai Natcon 2022 held at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Source YouTube. Q. The #UN hosted the first #WaterConference in almost 50 (46) years in March. How was The #Dholakia Foundation involved with the Conference?

We were proud to represent the gems and jewellery industry as the only organisation from the industry participating in the conference. Participating in this conference has been one of the proudest moments of my life so far. Today, 2 billion people live without safe drinking water and over the past 300 years, over 85% of the world’s wetlands have been lost. The Water Conference is a tremendous opportunity for all stakeholders to come together with renewed conviction and work towards solving the water crisis with urgency. We are delighted to be announcing our commitments to water conservation and hosting eminent leaders in the industry for a panel discussion on water conservation. I want to ensure our knowledge unites and helps other diamond producing nations and countries.

Q. What are some other initiatives that set Hari Krishna Exports apart as an organisation?

At Hari Krishna, we believe our employees are our biggest assets and we are passionate about showing our commitment to their wellbeing by organising wellness and meditation camps for them, and rewarding their hard work however we can, be it through incentives such as houses or cars, or additional financial support for their family, such as with the school fees of their children. We were honoured to have Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally handing over keys to employees during our incentive ceremony in 2018.

Q. What advice do you have for other luxury companies wanting to get involved in tackling the global water crisis? As luxury companies, we must be a class apart in our efforts to solve the global water crisis. Looking inwardly and at our supply chain is the first step. I am of the firm belief that the way forward is through collaboration and the sharing of ideas and best practices to tackle this crisis, ensuring we leave behind a legacy for future generations to be truly proud of.

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