“Competitors try to strike just before a contract is awarded. It is a cat and mouse game. Sometimes I am the cat and sometimes I am the rat” – Ashok Khade
Dalits and their problems in a country which was liberated from British 70 years ago are used only for Vote Bank Politics. The upliftment of underprivileged is done only in election manifestos. But here is an aberration from mundane, Meet Ashok Khade born in a poverty-ridden Dalit family with five siblings with ‘hunger’ being common peer to all the five siblings and his father’s constant fight to feed the family with cobbler profession not yielding the much-needed results Ashok realized in his childhood only education can bring his family out of poverty and strived hard to complete his Diploma in part-time working for a Dock and taking tuitions to support his educational expense. His good handwriting earned him a job as ship designing and painting job. Further, he went on to start his own offshore fabrication company called DAS offshore engineering named after three brothers Datta, Ashok & Suresh and is renowned as one of the biggest Dalit owned companies of the nation giving employment to nearly 4500 employees. This story of rags to riches should be an eye-opener for all of us out there that determination and hard work can bring out stupendous changes in an individual.
Poverty, Hunger, and Childhood
Ashok and his five siblings had a common friend called ‘Hunger’ and winters was the season for them to embrace each other and sleep to share the warmth. Born in a village called Ped in Sangli district of Maharashtra state his father had to struggle hard to feed his family. Mother used to work as an agricultural laborer.
The following incidence clearly portrays the hardship this family had gone through. Once Ashok had gone to a flour mill to get flour and on the way due to heavy rains he slipped and the entire flour was spilled into the water. His mother broke into tears when she heard this incidence as she had nothing to feed the family and borrowed some maize and vegetables from villagers to prepare some food. Having witnessed the difficulty of his mother Ashok decided to study well and eliminate poverty from their family. His father migrated to Bombay and started a cobbler shop near Chitra Talkies under a tree to give better livelihood for the family but it was a difficult proposition for him.
Ashok managed to complete his Secondary School at his native place and relocated to Mumbai as his brother was working as a welder in Mazgon dockyard. Most interestingly He ranked first in Sanskrit Exams of X class, though it was the toughest subject for him in the lower classes. Ashok never gave up his ambition to continue studies. But at the same time, he supported his brother as apprentice worker in Dockyard and earned INR 90 as wages. Though he initially aspired to become a doctor, he realized it is not possible. His good handwriting fetched him ship designing and painting job at Dockyard.
Continued Education through Diploma
In spite of financial constraints, Ashok joined for part-time Diploma in mechanical engineering. His keenness to adapt and learn new aspects of shipbuilding was noted by his superiors and was sent for training to Germany. His short stint at Germany enabled him to learn new technology and his goal to start up his own offshore fabrication unit also germinated within him.
Inception of DAS- offshore Engineering
In 1992, Ashok Khade’s uncle died leaving behind four unmarried daughters. The gravity of situation prompted Ashok and his two brothers to start their own company. They took financial assistance from within family circle without taking help from any external investors and incepted DAS-offshore bearing initials of the three brothers’ names.
The first order came from Mazagon Dock. One of the Contractors had left a project halfway through and chairman of Mazagon Dock Capt. P V Nair a retired Navy officer had called for fresh contracts. DAS firm won the bid for 1.82 Cr. and completed the project within stipulated time. Ashok recalls he could procure all the materials on credit from his peers whom he had earlier worked with.
Today DAS offshore’s has renowned clientele like Hyundai, Essar, ONGC, Leighton Australia etc. The firm has helped more than 1000 human resource to get trained in their capacity building programmes. The company is known for deploying more than 1760 workers in Bombay High and finishing the project without Loss of Time or Injury. DAS offshore is expanding overseas with operations at Sharjah in Arab countries. Ashok Khade believes in survival of fittest theory and agrees that in the competition sometimes he will be like cat and on some other occasion he will be like a rat!
Having come from a poverty background Ashok has forgotten his roots. The Company helps his community with charity funds during wedding ceremonies. Interestingly He has donated funds to the Temple of his village where he was made to stand outside the door for being due to his caste and has renovated the same as per the wishes of his mother. He has plans to start an Engineering college, Hospital and School. Moreover, he never gets involved in nepotism and treats everybody by merit. Rightly he has been awarded Udyog Ratna award by our Govt. for creating opportunities to thousands of people instead of pleading the Govt. for jobs.
We at Abdul Kalam Fan Club wish this inspirational personality success in his future endeavors and wish more entrepreneurs follow his suit to make every countrymen pride.
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