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Shreyans Dholakia: Business with Emotion

Updated: Feb 3

There was so much packed into my conversation with Shreyans Dholakia. My connection with Shreyans dates to my first trip to Surat, India late 2009. I was completely overwhelmed, not sure what to expect as I stepped into a diamond factory for the first time.

To say my nerves were calmed as I entered the Shree Ramkrishna Exports Pvt. Ltd. (SRK) facility would be an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, the place was way bigger and more sophisticated than I expected – and that was the old factory. Rather, it was the warm energy and hospitality with which I was greeted that did the trick.

As I sat with Govind-bhai, Shreyans’s father, he explained through an interpreter the great responsibility he felt for his workers during the 2008 financial crisis. He beamed that the company had not let go one employee during that difficult time. Fast-forward to today, another global crisis later, and the same philosophy applies. Through the pandemic, some 5,000 SRK employees kept their jobs.

They’re part of the SRK family, Shreyans stresses, echoing his father’s words from a decade ago. Counter to the classic business advice, the company works with emotion, rather than might, he notes. That attitude is evident in its philanthropic work, as the family is deeply immersed in upliftment programs in Surat. Govind is chairman of Kiran Hospital – a diamond-industry-funded facility doing incredible work (see my comment below if you believe in miracles).

Shreyans’ grew up around the business his father started over 50 years ago. But, as with all family members, he had to find his place in the corporate structure. After completing his undergrad in Mumbai, he furthered his studies in London with a master’s in international marketing.

Upon returning to Surat, Shreyans began his real education. Every family member who enters the business spends two years learning the manufacturing process, and then a year in the sales office.

Shreyans knew where he would contribute. His passion is marketing, and he wanted to help develop SRK’s e-commerce capabilities, after its online platform launched in 2008. Neither he nor the company have looked back since.

Today, Shreyans is the brand custodian at SRK, overseeing much of its sales and IT marketing, which is only getting stronger. SRK’s revenue grew from $150 million in 2008, of which about 40% was online, to $1.7 billion in 2020-21 when 90% was done via e-commerce.

The company has come a long way from Govind-bhai’s humble beginnings. He left his parent’s farm as a 13-year-old to work at a diamond factory. And he grew to be an entrepreneur when in 1970 he started a venture with two partners that morphed into SRK.

Today, Govind is focused on charity work, leaving the next generation to run the business. With Shreyans among them, I’d say SRK is in pretty good hands. I’m lucky enough to have watched Shreyans grow, and I consider him a friend. I can’t wait to watch the journey continue. Meet Shreyans everyone.

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If you want to understand the diamond trade’s contribution to Surat, Gujarat, visit Kiran Multi Super Specialty Hospital. The Facility's list of donors reads like an industry directory. It was a passion project of Govind-bhai’s from the start. He is president of the Samast Patidar Aarogya Trust, which initiated the development.

The hospital opened in April 2017 and about a year later Govind-bhai was diagnosed with a liver disorder. It was being monitored, but after recovering from a hernia operation in mid-2021, his liver deteriorated. He urgently needed a transplant. It was not an operation the hospital had done, so the family registered for a donor in Mumbai. But there was a waiting list, and they couldn’t find a suitable match.

While continuing their search, a woman was declared braindead in Gujarat. Her family agreed to donate her kidneys and liver to save lives. In short, the first-ever liver transplant was done at Kiran Hospital on the man who was central to giving the facility life. The story as Shreyans told it gave me chills. Govind-bhai has fully recovered and is able to continue his great community work. No doubt, he is still the first to greet visitors to Surat – as he did for me – with his new liver, enormous heart, and characteristic smile.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn in March 2022.

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