How A Cobbler's Son Broke Caste Barriers And Built A ₹500 Crore Business With ONGC, Hyundai As Clients

From the shadows of a Mumbai tree where his father worked as a cobbler, Ashok Khade’s journey to helm a ₹500 crore company is nothing short of cinematic. Born in the humble village of Ped in Maharashtra’s Sangli district, Ashok’s early life was marred by poverty and caste-based discrimination. The family, belonging to the Dalit community of ‘Chamars‘, faced societal exclusion, with their primary occupation being skinning dead animals.

What to know? Making a bold move, Ashok’s father relocated to Mumbai, setting up shop under a tree near Chitra Cinema in the city’s bustling area of Dadar. “That tree my father planted still stands as a testament to our roots,” Ashok reminisced in an interview.

Understanding the transformative power of education, Ashok pursued his studies in government schools. Post his 10th grade, he joined his elder brother in Mumbai, who was carving a niche as a welder at the Mazgaon Dockyard. Ashok too began as an apprentice, simultaneously continuing his college education.

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Critical juncture: A pivotal moment arrived in 1983 when Ashok visited Germany, igniting his entrepreneurial spirit. By 1995, leveraging his experience and contacts, Ashok, alongside his brothers Datta and Suresh, founded DAS Offshore. Named after the trio’s initials, the company capitalized on the post-liberalization boom in the oil services sector. Their maiden significant project? A nod from their former employer, Mazagon Dock who weren’t able to complete a project for an important client.

Today, DAS Offshore boasts a clientele featuring heavyweights like ONGC and Hyundai, employing over 4,500 individuals. But Ashok’s success isn’t just in numbers. Honouring his mother’s wishes, he renovated a village temple they were once forbidden to enter. With dreams of establishing a hospital, school, and engineering college in his village, Ashok’s journey from under a tree to towering heights continues.

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