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FIRST MOVERS

Potel California



Dalpatbhai Patel (left) and his brother Maganbhai in front of their first motel they bought in 1970.

A new book, 'Dhandha: How Gujaratis Do Business' by Shobha Bondre, shines a spotlight on their business acumen. In this extract, Dalpatbhai Patel, a pioneer motelier, talks about the Gujarati willingness to help one another. The community, today, runs over 40 per cent of the motels in the US.

Some customers would haggle about the room rent whereas there were some who requested politely for a discount. I slowly learnt to judge whether the person was genuine and really couldn't afford the rent. In such cases, I would give them a discount.

There were two reasons for this-one, it was better to let out the room at a lower rent rather than get no rent if it stayed vacant and two, this way I could help a person in need at no great loss to the business.

Each one of us added his or her own way of thinking to the business but all the ideas were worked out to our benefit and we slowly turned the business into a success.

Soon the news of our 'Imperial Inn' being a great success spread within the Gujarati community all across the country. Several Patels and Shahs visited our motel. These included not only our friends and relatives, but also Gujaratis we didn't know, who dropped in to see how we were running the business and pick up some tips. We made everyone feel welcome. They would stay and eat with us and have a look at the motel. But in addition to this, we made it a point to talk to them in detail about how and why we had got into this business, its pros and cons, etc. We never hesitated to share with them the secrets of running a motel successfully. First one Gujarati and then another and another, slowly several Gujaratis began to buy old, run down motels and run them.

Meanwhile Maganbhai had also started working as a realtor, so he got the Gujaratis some very good deals. If someone did not have enough capital, we even helped them out financially. We hadn't forgotten the help our friends had given us when we first started out. Now it was our turn to help others in the same way. People often wonder: Why are Gujaratis so successful in business?

The key to their success is, to put it simply, determination, hard work, their readiness to learn, and their practical approach. But above all, what is most important is their willingness to help one another to make the business a success.

When we decided to start our business, Maganbhai had said to me 'Dalpat, the two of us are highly educated and will definitely get good jobs. But we have two other brothers who are not well qualified. If we want to help them and their families, we will have to get into some business and make it grow. ' He was absolutely right. As soon as our 'Imperial Inn' started running well, we called first our brothers, then our nephews to the US. They in turn helped others to come here and settle down.

Slowly they all bought their own motels. All they needed was the initial helping hand. Once they got a foothold here, they all added their own special touch, took the initiative, and became successful in their own right. We can proudly claim today, that we didn't limit our success only to ourselves. Our entire family put together today owns 65 motels.
A famous Indian saint has said, 'If we join hands and work together, the road to success is easy. ' And we Gujaratis have put this saying into practice and proved him right.

Excerpt courtesy Random House India.

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