caption: Noted Goan industrialist, educationist and philanthropist, Ramnath Kare completed 86 years of his fruitful life on October 18. On this occasion, he has an exclusive tête-à-tête with Ratnakar Nevrekar, discussing his multifaceted career and the industrial as well as educational developments in Goa, among other things
When John Kennedy was nominated for election for the post of the president of the US in 1960 at a very young age of 43 years, in the course of campaigning a voter asked him what was it that made him different from the other contenders. His pithy reply was “Others look at things that are and ask why; I look at things that are not and ask why not?” This came to my mind recently when I realized that my dear friend Ramnath Govind Kare is turned a ripe 86 on the October 18. His life story is no different from the ‘why not’ phenomenon in various fields.
His eventful life span has been full of exemplary achievements in industrial, educational and social fields. I can claim to have known Ramnathbab, as he is fondly called by one and all (though he is also Babu to some) for the last almost 70 years. He was actually a contemporary of my two elder brothers and his two younger brothers, Suresh and late Ashok were my contemporaries at school.
In those days I can only claim to just know him and he evoked as much respect and awe from me as my elder brothers did. But my real friendship started when we together worked on the managing committee of the Vidya Vikas Mandal where I remained for nine years and he for nearly 33 years. He was wisely elected as the president in1978 and it cannot be denied that ever since he took over the reins there was no looking back for him and for the institution.
Recently our friendship has developed further because we are exchanging books with each other. Ramnathbab is an avid reader. He says that, book is the biggest company of mine and even when I am alone in the company of books I never feel lonely.
I took an opportunity to meet him recently at his beautiful and well maintained ancestral house at Margao to hear first hand his own version of the vast canvas of achievements he has to his credit and this is how the conversation went.
Ramnathbab, how did your life take shape?
I came from a family of first generation entrepreneurs with my father late Govind Ramnath Kare beginning with small time trading in pharmaceutical products. He founded Drogaria Salcete as far back as 1932. When I cleared my matriculation I was sent to Mumbai (Bombay) to join the prestigious St Xaviers College but with a clear understanding that I shall have to return to join my father’s budding business back home. This I had to perforce do because in the year 1955 when I had just cleared my intermediate, the government of India imposed an economic blockade on Portuguese Goa.
This blockade was not only confined to the movement of goods and services but also to the movement of people, between Goa and the rest of India. This made me stay put in Goa 1955 onwards though my formal education had not been completed. This, however turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My education at the hands of my father was much more productive and beneficial than what the academic degree would have given me.
I started assisting my father sitting in Salcete Pharmacy and learning the ropes of business. Frankly the Indian blockade from 1955 to 1961 proved beneficial for our trade. There being no movement of products from India, the Goa government allowed us to import from abroad. We could thus procure agencies in pharmaceutical products from reputed companies abroad. such as Abbott Laboratories, Merk , Takede Chemicals etc
My father, a great entrepreneur that he was, had also started a small drug manufacturing unit in Thane near Bombay in the year 1946. named Indoco Remedies but, on account of of the blockade it faced a lot of difficulties but Vasant Gaitonde,who was a stakeholder in it ensured that its day today activities continued unabated. Frankly the blockade period proved to be a boon to our business and we could lay a solid foundation. After liberation there was no looking back for us.
Although agencies from foreign companies came to a gradual closure, besides taking up agencies from indigenous companies, our own manufacturing activities also gained momentum. Farmacia and Drogaria Salcete became names to reckon within Goa which reputation and credibility continues unabated till this day. These were first handled by my youngest brother late Ashok and after his demise in 2012, are now being ably managed by his two sons Salil and Kunal. The manufacturing unit in Mumbai which was strangulated during the blockade got a momentum after the blockade was lifted and my younger brother Suresh took over its reins, and after tremendous hard and dedicated work, imaginatively turned it round and today boasts of a turnover of Rs 1500 crores per annun. Suresh managed it for nearly 50 years before handing over the baton to his able daughter Aditi Panandikar.
I have now almost retired from day to day routine business and other activities. My son Kapil is also an entrepreneur on his own and is doing well in his chosen field. Our manufacturing activities went on an expansion spree by starting a number of more products. I started in Margao our unit named DCI Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd in 1968 which was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister late Bhausaheb Bandodkar. DCI Pharmaceuticals was perhaps the first company to manufacture pharmaceuticals products in Goa. We did roaring business since the late sixties. We also took over an existing aluminum packaging unit named Classic Extrusion Pvt. Ltd at Margao Industrial estate. Eventually we also started more pharmaceutical manufacturing units in Verna Industrial Estate and at Ponda.
My association with you has been more since you were president of the Vidya Vikas Mandal where I was a committee member.
Yes, like you I too was a committee member till 1978. I remember you were one of the members of the delegation who one day called on me to invite me to take over as president upon the retirement of the incumbent .The other two with you were the late Vasant Kamat the then hon. secretary of the institution and late principal MT Gabhe. I was at first rather hesitant to take over this fledgling institution, with all adversities staring in the face.
The Mandal at that time had only one college i.e. Damodar College of Commerce and Economics and did not have any infrastructure at all that would be conducive to carry on the educational institute. The classes were held in hired decrepit buildings, with no facilities worth the name for both to the students and the staff. The institution was woefully short of funds so much so that when I took over, the teaching staff were in salary arrears. My first task upon taking over as chairman was to pump in my personal Rs 50,000 just to pay the teaching staff’s accumulated salaries.
One rainy day there was a calamitous crash in the structure of the decrepit hired premises. As head of the institution I had to do something urgently to tide over this emergency. I gathered together the best of architectural and construction professionals and sought their advice. While some makeshift arrangement was found, it was a cause for long term concern. Something concrete had to be done. Zambaulim Devasthan had some land in the heart of Margao which would be sufficient for our immediate requirement. The Devasthan through their office bearers cooperated and we were made beneficiaries of land admeasuring 10,000 sq. meters on long term lease of 99 years. As the VVM was expanding, we needed more land and the Goa government then headed by Pratapsingh Rane generously allotted about 30,000 sq. meters.
The Mandal will remain forever grateful to Pratapsingh Rane. The newly built Damodar College was inaugurated in 1984 at the hands of Vice President of India late Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah. The Vidya Vikas Mandal was on an expansion mode and in 1979, the Kare family gave a munificent donation to it to start Govind Ramnath Kare College of Law which has made a name for itself ass there were no law college for the students in south Goa. This college helped the student community tremendously as they took full benefit to pursue their careers in law and I am happy to say that nearly 10 judges in the various courts of Goa as well as the former Attorney General for the government of Goa, are the products of this college. The foundation of the Kare College of Law was laid at the auspicious hands of the then Chief Justice of India, YV Chandrachud. This law college today boasts of quite a few of its alumni who have excelled themselves at the bench and bar. To name only a few we have Justice Anuja Prabhudesai on the bench of the Bombay HC, Sayonara Laud and Desmond Dcosta on the Goa district bench, Adv. Atmaram Nadkarni as Attorney General etc.
Besides we also started The Ramacrisna Madeva Salgaocar Higher Secondary School, Gaunekar Institute of Management, BBA College imparting computer education and lately Vidya Vikas Academy a English medium school affiliated to CBSC Board. All these needed funds and I am thankful to the Goa Urban Bank for standing by us with financial support for long term loans.
I must admit, that despite quite a few people expressing apprehensions, I provided my personal guarantee for the Mandal’s loans. Today a vast and impressive structure of VVM institutions is standing at the campus and we have about 5000 students imbibing knowledge in various streams and about 400 teaching and non- teaching staff imparting that knowledge. Today all the institutions of the mandal are doing well and my dream to have quality education for the students from KG to PG has been achieved. Today all the buildings standing in the campus are the temples of education. During my tenure as the president of VVM, I got excellent support from my colleagues on the board of VVM.
What do you feel about the future of VVM?
Fundamentally VVM has a strong base now and the newly elected president Nitin Kukonlienkar, is a young and dynamic person, who I am sure will take it to further heights. I was honoured by TMA Pai Foundation Manipal for life time achievement in the field of education I stepped down at the age of 80 as active president and was elevated as the president emeritus by the board.
Your contribution in education is there for all to see but I would also like to know about your work with the Goa Chamber of Commerce (GCCI) as the president.
Yes there too my contribution has been very substantial. I was a member of the managing committee of the chamber when big industrial doyens like Vasantrao Dempo, V D Chowgule, VM Salgaonkar were presidents. I worked closely with Prabhakar Angle and learnt the ropes.
Angle was very knowledgeable and a dedicated activist who was effectively guiding the affairs of the chamber. When Dr. Manmohan Singh was the finance minister in the early nineties, with the help of Eduardo Faleiro, then a minister in the Narasimha Rao Government, we sought an appointment with him and impressed upon him the need to give a boost to the economy of Goa.
The finance minister was very receptive and after making a visit to Goa agreed to grant many concessions like a income tax holiday for ten years. The Verna industrial estate which today boasts of many prestigious industries and employment generation of about 40000 persons was a result of those concessions granted by Dr Singh. We also approached him to procure for Goans the Body of Individuals (BOI) concessions in income tax which he was kind enough to announce as a budget proposal. I was included in a delegation headed by the then Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane which toured some important far eastern countries like Singapore, Malaysia Philippines etc. to study social conditions and possibilities of business opportunities for Goan entrepreneurs. I lead one delegation of Goan entrepreneurs to Sri Lanka to attend the industrial exhibition there.
On the family front, I am a contented person with all my next generation kin doing extremely well both on the educational and business front keeping all the family traditions afloat. Rishab Sardesai, my grandson has taken post graduate education at the prestigious Stanford University in the US and has just been campus selected by a top international company in the US. I was also fortunate to be nominated on the various boards of public limited companies and financial institutions like the State Bank of India- Mumbai Board, State Bank of India – Mutual, EDC, Finolex, Holiday Inn, etc.
The Kare family is also well known for their philanthropic activities. Besides donating for the Law college in Margao, they have made huge donations to the Gomant Vidya Niketan where the main auditorium has been named after his late father Govind Ramnath alias Baba Kare, and Mahila Mandal in memory of their late mother Vimala Kare. His refrain is what his late father’s dictum to his sons was out of all your earnings a certain portion should be spent for the welfare of the society or the downtrodden. They are all committed this to dictum. He further says that he got good support from my wife Sharda and my children for all my endeavors
On a personal note Ramnathbab is well known for his fabulous hospitality. I have personally experienced it on a number of occasions. Every important function connected with VVM would invariably end with a fabulous repast, a lunch or a dinner at his residence . I have been honoured to be invited in my capacity as a committee member and partake in the repast in the august company of great persons like CJ Chandrachud, VC Ram Joshi, Dr Mashelkar, The Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane etc When asked about his message to the younger generation today, his crisp reply is, “educate yourself well for education has no alternative in this highly competitive world and work hard and imaginatively.” As for himself his aim is to imbibe what the Ramdas Swamy had said Marave pari kirtirupe urave (Good deeds make a person immortal)
In other words one has to do noble work so that society always remembers you. On behalf of his friends and well wishers I wish Ramnathbab a healthy and long life
The writer is a contemporary and close associate of Ramnath Kare