Business and Professionals
Born: July 12, 1951
Visual impairment : Lost eyesight at the age of four following a cataract operation
"Its all in my brain, whether it’s account-keeping, recruitment or staff management”, says Shivaji Laxman Chavhan who does not use any computer or any software; his high-powered concentration, memory and insight give him the necessary skills to run his travel business.
Born in Sangli, Maharashtra, Chavhan lost his eyesight at the age of four following a cataract operation. His parents were illiterate but because of their fruit-mart business were financially well settled. They made efforts to restore his eyesight but that was not to be.
Till the age of 10, his parents refused to send him to school. They were afraid for him because of his disability and lacked the awareness of the benefits he could get from education. However, on the advice of a caring neighbour, he was eventually placed in a blind school.
Chavhan was a mischievous student; he was thrown out of the school thrice, only to be taken back upon the request of his mother. On which he remarks lightly: “That’s all the problem I had and that’s how it was dealt with.” His sharp memory, concentration and good grasp of Braille got him good grades in school and college. He also did a telephone operator's course and a vocational rehabilitation course.
After his father’s death, he did not want to depend on his siblings for his livelihood. He wanted to earn his living but jobs never came his way. He tried setting up small businesses: a tailor shop, barber shop, fruit mart, etc., but none of these initiatives were successful.
Meanwhile he met Smita, the lady he wanted to marry. The road to marriage was not smooth as his family had reservations since his spouse-to-be was also blind. They wanted him to marry a sighted person. Despite the opposition he went ahead with the marriage and both families are now proud of that decision.
In December 1979 came the moment that Chavhan had been waiting for. He was called for an interview for the post of telephone operator at the Indian Overseas Bank. He cleared the interview and consequently joined the bank.
In spite of his earlier failures, his true calling was still business. In 1987, he opened his own travel agency – Smit India Travels. Initially, he faced problems devoting enough time to it, since he was still continuing with his bank job. People doubted his abilities as a visually impaired businessman. He was cheated by a few clients and Chavhan’s business partner even tried to take over the travel agency. He says philosophically, “It’s all about trust and faith in business and they (cheaters) committed breach of trust, I believe it has nothing to do with my blindness."
For long Chavhan operated only as a booking agent. But he did not lose hope and kept striving harder and harder, and investing in human relationships, as he believed that this was the key to success, in business or in life.
Success knocked at his door in 1992 in the form of ‘Khurana Travels’. B.T Khurana (of Khurana Travels) observed how Chavhan dealt with his business, clients and staff and was impressed. He had full faith in Chavhan’s abilities and therefore his disability was no impediment to their business ties. Business expanded and Chavhan ventured into tour operation - plying luxury coaches and buses. In 1995, he quit his bank job to concentrate completely on his travel agency. It was to give him what had been elusive in his earlier ventures: profits and prosperity.
Business is doing well, but Chavan is still humble: “It is all because of Mr. Khurana’s faith in me that I am in this position today,” he says.
Work is not everything: Chavan and his wife have three children and whenever he finds time he also likes to write poetry. He informs: “My wife is also a poet and unlike me, she has published works to her name.”