Saturday, 17 March 2012

Surat : The Diamond City

22nd February 2012, I drove to Surat for a 2 day business trip.  The city of Surat is the 2nd biggest city of the state of Gujarat and the 8th most populous city of India with a population of 4.5 million people.  Located on the  river Tapi Surat can be called 'The Diamond City' as it accounts for +70 % of the world's total rough diamond cutting and polishing and India's +90 % of totally rough diamond cutting and polishing.  It is also a textile hub with +40 % of India's man made fabric being produced here.  Today the city is the 4th fastest growing city in the world, having largest GDP in India.  (Source of information : Wikipedia and )

I started visiting Surat very often for business since 2003 when I joined my family business.  Ever since then I've seen and known this city a lot.  I visit this city almost 7 - 8 times in a year and I must say that its a heaven to do business in terms of volumes.  The people who originally belong to this city are named Surti's.  But it has seen a lot of migration from lot of other states of India who came here in search of work and settled down here with their families.  Today this city holds an interesting mix of people from all over India.  People from Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Saurashtra region of Gujarat, South India have mixed with Surti's.  I some how come across and interact with people from each of this regions during my trip of 2 days.  

The moment I get out of the station the first thing I do is to get a room in Hotel Anand, just opposite to the railway station.  I mostly prefer this hotel for its location and cozy rooms.  The room service personnel in this hotel mostly come from different parts of Gujarat and are always ready to serve you in expectation of some tip.  The next thing in the morning is to go to Roopa restaurant right in front of the station and have a South Indian breakfast.  Vada sambhar and Upma.  Served hot, tasty, light on stomach and cheap.  The restaurant is owned by 2 South Indian brothers.  I have never seen this restaurant empty.  Its always filled with travelers, sales guys, couples and even families.   And then I start meeting my customers who again belong to different communities.  Marwadi's from Rajasthan, Kathiawadi's from Saurashtra region, Surti's from Surat, few from the Sindhi community and also some from Dawoodi Bohra community.  For me commuting from one customer to another is best by shuttle rickshaw's.  Many of this rickshaw's are driven by men who migrated from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.  

Its not at all a touristic city, but is mostly popular for its business potential.  It has a big petrochemical plant, fertilizer and steel plants, gas processing plant and a heavy engineering unit, LNG terminal and gas based power plant.  All in all its one city with great potential for business.  Its the city with lots of flyovers and huge textile markets.  For one thing that I've noticed coming here since so many years is the rudeness and lack of compassion for the fellow human being.  You walk on the street and you see hundreds of instances where 2 people for no or petty reason happen to be rude and unkind to each other.  The hectic pace at which people are running or driving from one place to another, I suppose has made them machines with no sensitivity.  In the quest of getting better monetarily, the city seems to have lost the touch of kindness and compassion.  Is it this economic boom or is it the migration of people from socially and economically weak states causing this drift from being compassionate human beings ?

Right from the moment you step in this city utter chaos greets you on the street while walking.  Everyone wants to beat the other in one race or the other.  This city which has battled a horrible plague and deadly floods and which has come out of it just amazingly, seems to have lost the human touch.  It makes me wonder sometimes, will I be able to live in this city Surat ? At present I would never want to live in such a city but for business still its my # 1 destination in Gujarat..... ;)