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India – Open for Business

21 Apr 2020

Peacock bangle by Anil Bharwani-Jeweller-NAJ

NAJ Retail Ambassador, Helen Dimmick reports back on her recent visit to Mumbai with NAJ Industry Ambassador, Lindsey Straughton and Jayant Raniga of PureJewels and the British Asian Jewellers’ Alliance.

For the Signature edition of the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS) in Mumbai, the Gem Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) invited the NAJ to attend with the aim of exploring bilateral opportunities. Our hosts for the visit were Dhaval Soni and Hemal Soni, brothers and owners of Jewelxy, an advanced and bespoke digital solution for the jewellery industry. Together with Jayant they introduced us to key contacts in Mumbai, facilitating fast-track connections and opportunities. We also met Mehul Lodhiya, International Coordinator (UK) for the GJEPC and the rest of the Board of the GJEPC.

We received a really amazing welcome – Lindsey and I felt like royalty with the reception we received and Jayant was definitely the star turn! He is extremely well connected and well regarded. Well, he is the King of Facebook in India and the UK!

An excellent seminar event from Retail Jeweller India (no relation) offered a useful introduction to the jewellery industry in India. It got off to a flying start with Rishikesh Tiveldi, who discussed how digital opportunities can transform businesses. Truly inspired, I was hanging on his every word. Another notable speaker was Sachin Jain from Forevermark India, who showed how they are using AR augmented reality face, mood and voice recognition, and other cutting edge technology, to enhance the sales process at every customer encounter.

India-Jeweller-NAJ

The future of diamonds and the impact of lab-grown was also a hot topic debated by some leading industry figures – we all face exactly the same industry challenges and opportunities, no matter where in the world we are. Other topics included ‘how to make a business stand out?’

Arguably the biggest lesson of day one is a cultural learning. We each have our own preferred method of communication, which is totally different. The Indians do all their business via WhatsApp, which we think is for more informal social occasions, thus preferring to send an email. Indians won’t think it’s appropriate to reply to an email but will respond immediately to a WhatsApp message, almost 24 hours a day. We’ve discussed how we will each advise on our cultural and communication nuances to ensure understanding and achieve relationship harmony.

IIJS is not predominantly an export event, therefore it was important for us to look beyond the booths and displays, which contain more traditional bridal collections and predominantly yellow gold. Step over the threshold of each booth, though, and quite frankly “The answer is yes, now what's the question?”. India is open for business and wants to work with the UK, whatever adaptations, communication and developments it might take.

In terms of manufacturing, state-of-the-art and advance technologies sit side-by-side with a tradition of handcrafting, ensuring high-end output. Quality is the name of the game and unlike in some other countries, there is no stipulation of multiple large-scale commitment; small orders are very acceptable.

Platinum is also being utilised, with increasing domestic demand from the rising middle class and known preference in the West. Personally, I was very excited about the open mind to blend our two cultures – indeed key manufacturers take inspiration from the western narrative. I loved the rose and sliced cut diamonds; not only do these create a very price-accessible opportunity, but they are also very much on-trend with the rise in demand for more ‘natural’ or ‘authentic’ cuts. We met with manufacturers using these stones as well as the owner of the largest cutting facility in India of rose cut stones.

Image: Rose and slice cut diamonds

Rose and slice cut diamonds-Jeweller-NAJ

Lindsey and I met with large-scale manufacturers, designers, retailers, wholesalers, press and marketing people and key contacts at the GJEPC and other event organisers. Not only are they looking to provide financial and logistical support for visitors, but we have also urged them not to force visiting British retailers into the habitual ‘match-making service’ event, (ie stipulating they must visit up to 20 manufacturers etc). We suggested they use the opportunity to listen and garner feedback from the retailers and to build the foundation for long-term relationships. For example, in Jaipur there are plans to step away from the exhibition centres and take delegates out to some of the more famous landmarks. Indeed, having the opportunity to experience the landscape, culture and heritage is key to fully understanding (and as in my case) falling in the love with the country.

We also recognise the advantages of having a ‘local host’, but with UK jewellery industry experience to provide fast track support and relevant connections where needed. Going forward working with the NAJ we will look to provide this invaluable resource.

I think one of the most fundamental points I have taken away from this visit was one of ‘attitude’. Without generalising, I was overwhelmed by the positivity of everyone we met. India is also experiencing extremely challenging economic times, yet this is not dwelt on; it’s more about the positive opportunity. (Perhaps because this country is used to hardship and just getting on with life..?) In a post-Brexit environment, where new opportunities can be forged, this is a country that wants to do business with us, but on the basis of a partnership; one that should yield exponential results.

Image: Helen, Lindsey and Jayant Raniga presented with mementoes of their visit

Helen and Lindsey, presented with mementoes of their visit

Finally, in all honesty, I boarded the flight to Mumbai with some trepidation, expecting this to be an interesting experience, but one that would be fairly limited to the diamond market and the inherent price advantages. I couldn’t have been more naive and wrong. I was blown away by the welcome, optimism, opportunity and advances in intellectual and product technology, that the Indian jewellery market offers.

My goodness, the trip was non-stop, but it was worth it.

 

Are you travelling abroad for a trade show or conference? If you are, it’s always worth getting in touch with an NAJ Ambassador for some advice and guidance. You could find out who is also there and our Ambassadors could look into setting up introductions for you.

Email Lindsey Straughton 

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Source: The Jeweller - Summer 2020 | NAJ News