Reaching India, he started legal practice as a draftsman. In 1893 he was drafted by an Indian firm, Dada Abdulla & Co., to go to South Africa to represent them in legal courts. It was in South Africa, this 24-year old shy, timid, inexperienced, unaided, lonely and lean man matured into the Mahatma Gandhi of later periods.
He landed in Durban, South Africa, in a frock-coat and turban, and his client Abdulla Sheth was there to receive him. The first thing he sensed on arrival was the oppressive atmosphere of racial snobbishness.
Indians of whom large numbers were settled in South Africa, some as merchants, some in the professions, the large majority as indentured laborers or their descendants, were all looked down upon as untouchables and called coolies. Thus an Indian doctor popularly known as Hindu doctor was a coolie doctor and Gandhi himself a coolie barrister.