|Vikrant: A Deep Connection with Yiwu|
Name: Vikrant Jawharkar
Chinese Name: 洛基
Bio: Vikrant came to China at the age of 19 and initially worked in a foreign trade company based in Guangzhou. A chance opportunity to take a customer to Yiwu for a major order aroused his interest in this incredible place. He moved and started to put down his roots in Yiwu in 2005, where he founded his own foreign trade company in 2007.
Vikrant Jawharkar’s company is located on Chengbei Road, near the International Trade City. His office is full of photos, certificates, and awards—objects that show his fulfilling life in Yiwu over the years. Having lived in Yiwu for more than 10 years, Vikrant has played many different roles: general manager of Fortune Trading Co., Ltd., CEO of International Volunteer Service Club, vice chairman of the Building Beautiful Yiwu Promotion Association, and leader of a series of public charity events.
Once You Visit the Yiwu Market, You Never Want to Leave
In 2003, Vikrant left his hometown of Mumbai to work at a foreign trade company run by an Indian in Guangzhou. He explained: “I originally planned to go to the UAE because my father had worked there for many years, but my uncle suggested: ‘China is developing very rapidly; go to China.’”
In 2004, a South American client mentioned Yiwu: “The market in Yiwu is huge, with a rich and complete range of products.” Vikrant asked his boss whether he knew about the Yiwu market, but at that time, like Vikrant, his boss knew nothing about Yiwu. The boss agreed to let Vikrant accompany their client to Yiwu. “The plan was to stay there two days, but I ended up exploring the market for eight. I was planning to purchase a single cabinet, but in the end I bought five.” His first trip to Yiwu was mind-blowing because of the small commodities market, which not only presents a dazzling array of goods, but also guarantees cheap prices and good quality. In 2005, Vikrant’s boss opened a company branch in Yiwu under Vikrant’s strong suggestion. He then became responsible for the business.
In 2007, when the boss decided to retire and closed the company, Vikrant’s client suggested that he should start his own company. Feeling the trust of his clients, Vikrant founded his own foreign trade company in Yiwu, Fortune Trading Co., Ltd. In the beginning, the company only retained two or three of Vikrant’s old company’s clients. But thanks to the abundant offerings of the Yiwu market and Vikrant’s honest way of doing business, many new customers and clients turned to Vikrant, gradually moving his business forward.
Building a Sino-Indian Bridge through Import-Export Business
Vikrant is mainly engaged in the export trade of daily-use commodities, and his products are exported to more than 10 countries and regions, including the UAE, India, South America, and Africa. At present his business is booming, shipping more than 200 containers a year. In order to better develop and deploy overseas markets, he also opened companies in India, South America, and Dubai, among other places. “The largest volume of products is exported to India. Yiwu has advantages in quality and price, and is very popular among clients worldwide,” Vikrant said.
In the past couple of years, with the support of the Yiwu Municipal Government, he has also imported many high-quality Indian products, mainly food and handicrafts. “Mango purée is the best-selling product. It is delicious with milk, biscuits, and bread and is very appreciated by Chinese customers. In the future, I will select a wider range of high-quality Indian products according to local demand.”
In addition to working hard to promote Sino-Indian economic and trade exchanges, Vikrant has also spared no effort to act as a bridge in promoting cultural exchanges. Beginning in 2013, he and his friends introduced India’s national sport to Yiwu—cricket. Every August, Yiwu hosts an international cricket tournament, which has not only won the favor of Yiwu-based Indians, but also many others, accruing a large number of fans, both locals and internationals. In 2016, Vikrant invited Shyam Jaju, National Vice President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, to Yiwu. This was the first time that an Indian leader of this level had visited Yiwu. In 2019, Vikrant took the initiative to accompany the leaders of the Yiwu Municipal Government to inspect Mumbai. His involvement and initiative has shortened the cultural distance between Yiwu and Mumbai.
Motivating People To Do Public CharityTogether
Many Indians do business in Yiwu, and the enthusiastic Vikrant soon gathered his countrymates together. “They reach out to me if they encounter issues in business or life, and I try my best to help.” Vikrant’s enthusiasm for life gives many Yiwu-based Indian businesspeople a sense of belonging in Yiwu. In addition to discussing business and gathering together, he and his friends organize and participate in various activities for the public charity.
“I keep on thinking of ways to give back the good I get from this city. If a drop of my blood can save a person’s life, that is the most noble cause.”
In 2015, Vikrant contacted relevant departments and received strong support. He gathered more than 100 Indian businessmen in Yiwu and participated in an event for blood donation. Since then, an increasing number of people have joined Vikrant. His group not only sees Indians, but also colleagues and acquaintances from South America, Africa, and China. Over the years, no matter what kind of event he organizes, he receives positive responses from his friends. “If one wants to go far, he can’t only rely on himself, but needs a supportive group.”
In 2017, Vikrant was elected president of the “World Businesspeople” Volunteer Club. “Helping others and making others happy are my most cheerful moments,” Vikrant said.
“I live in Yiwu, and if Yiwu becomes a better place, it will be good for me too. So, doing public charitywill always be my first choice,” Vikrant explained. He used to be involved in volunteering programs in India, too, where he took part in many events. Over his 10 years in Yiwu, he and his team have showed determination in going to orphanages regularly to visit and comfort the children, to visit the elderly in the countryside, to volunteer on the streets, and, now, to donate masks to the community.
The activities he has organized and taken part in have also moved him. He once took rice and oil to bring sympathy to a group of elders. An old man gently grabbed his hand and asked him: “Are you married?”
Vikrant replied: “I am married. My family is in Yiwu.”
The old man said: “Well, bring your family to my house next weekend; we’ll dine together.”
About this experience, Vikrant said, “I was very moved. We had just met once, and he warmly invited me to eat at his home. I felt like I was treated as a family member.”
On February 26, the Yiwu Municipal Government awarded him for his outstanding contribution in creating a “civilized city of national level.” “I am the only foreigner to have received this award, which makes me even more motivated to work hard for our community and for Yiwu. Yiwu is my second hometown, and I’m deeply connected to this city. I’m very proud to be a new resident of Yiwu.” (Text and photo by Sheng Zan, additional photos provided by the interviewee, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Kendra Fiddler)