Vasantrao S. Dempo, safe to say, would not have been less dearer to the hearts of Goans if he had not to win any award. He hardly sought recognition, preferring tirelessly to administer his businesses. If he sought any thing it was Excellence. In each task, performed by each member of his workforce, starting with himself. To be sure, the Padmashree conferred on him was a welcome one. It was proof, if needed, that he was among a select few, one in fewer Goans, acknowledged as having been of importance to India. To put it plainly, though, no award bestowed upon Vasantrao was any surprise.
Of awards, there were plenty. Take the Rotary Club of Panjim, whose charter member Vasantrao was. It honoured him as its “Ambassador of Goodwill”. How appropriate the title is in the light of his sterling record in taking Goa to India and the world.
Building India’s image abroad came naturally to Vasantrao. In return, and as naturally, one finds, for instance, the Non Resident Indians’ Institute based in London choosing him for their annual Jawaharlal Nehru Award for Excellence for 1990 for enhancing India’s prestige and contributing towards national development. One finds here an acknowledgment abroad of his nation building efforts, his industrial empire nothing short of a developing India in microcosm.
Vasantrao’s nation building came in for creditable mention at home as well. A citation from thePresident of the Republic of India lauds his outstanding role in the development of the economy of Goa.
Nation building does not just mean bricks and mortar, rupees and paise, plants and factories, or jobs and workers. In recognition of the fact that Vasantrao’s group was an ideal of India in the making, the Shiromani Institute bestowed upon him their award for national integration. Again, how apt.
Some titles would come as a surprise to the man himself. Invited to lunch at the Portuguese President’s in Lisbon in 1958, Vasantrao was startled to hear himself announced as “Barao de Dempo”. Despite Portugal’s status as a republic, the glorious weight of the Dempo family history, marked by a perpetual baronetcy conferred on Krishnaji Sinai Dempo in 1873, proved too heavy to shake off, even several generations on!
An award that must have come to Vasantrao as a blessing was the Vidyadhiraj Puraskar conferred by His Holiness Shreemad Vidyadhiraj Teerth Shripad Vader Swamiji, Pontiff of the Shree Samsthan Gokarna Partagali Jeevottam Mutt. Vasantrao, after all, had been striving tirelessly for the Samaj and the Mutt. Who could have been more suitable than the Dempo Group Founder? But worthy of admiration is the humility with which Vasantrao accepted the award, deeming himself less deserving of the honour.
It is tempting to speculate that a striver like Vasantrao would have been more comfortable with a recognition that was tangible and real than adulatory titles. He must have found it a matter of satisfaction when the fruit of his enterprise, his flagship corporate, V. S. Dempo & Co. Pvt. Ltd., was conferred the special export award from CAPEXIL (the Chemical and Allied Products Export Promotion Council) instituted by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. Indeed, were he living still, he would be more than satisfied in observing that this award for excellence was recently won by the Company for the umpteenth time since!
But it cannot be denied that Vasantrao in himself was a business leader like few others. No wonder then that the International Friendship Society of India decorated him with the Vijayshri Award for his outstanding achievements. Or when the Shiromani Institute honoured him with the Goa Ratan Gold Award. Or when other titles came his way such as the Bharatiya Udyog Jyoti Award and the Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award. A bright light of Indian industry he certainly was. As he was in his dedication to excellence.
More than awards, recognition comes in the form of memberships of councils, committees and institutes. The more prestigious the body, the greater the honour. Vasantrao sat on a number of highly regarded bodies. A member of the Lloyds Register of Shipping for India, of the American Bureau of Shipping’s Technical Committee, of the Indo- Japan Business Cooperation Committee, and Chairman of the Indo- Portugal Trades Council. It is apparent that people doing business thought it better to have with them a man who, to put it plainly, knew his business.
We among his employees remember our times with our Chairman Emeritus on his birthday, the 4th March. Looking back, we ﬁnd it tempting to think that there was indeed one adulation that he seemed graciously ready to receive. Otherwise stern in demeanour, he would smile and enjoy every moment when we made much of the man who meant more to us than most. Paths of glory Vasantrao had trodden upon many a time and of many a kind. But the glory in the company of his employees was surely one to treasure in its sincerity, richness and immediacy.