India’s Boom Creates Openings for Untouchables –

Mr. Khade probably would not be in business with a prince had he not attended a networking cocktail reception hosted by the Dalit Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the five-star Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai this year. There he met the Indian businessman who introduced him to the Arab sheik, who helped him to globalize his company.

These kinds of connections are crucial to the nascent Dalit business community. Because Dalit businessmen often lack the social connections that lead to business ideas, loans and other support, a group of Dalit entrepreneurs created the chamber in 2005. It aims to build those networks so Dalit business leaders can help one another grow. The group has about 1,000 members, all of whom run companies with an annual turnover of at least $20,000.

It recently organized a meeting where Dalit businessmen pitched ideas to Tata Motors, one of India’s biggest car companies. Mr. Kamble, the Dalit contractor, said that of the 10 companies that attended, 4 had signed deals and 4 more were in negotiations. “There was a time when people like us could not even approach a company like Tata Motors,” he said. “Now we go meet them with dignity, not like beggars. We are job givers, not job seekers.”