Rapaport Magazine

C.K. Venkatraman Reports on Industry Progress in India

Rapaport International Diamond Conference 2009

By Margo DeAngelo
RAPAPORT... Representing the largest specialty jewelry retailer in the second-largest jewelry market in the world, C.K. Venkatraman, the chief operating officer (COO) of Tanishq, the flagship jewelry brand of India’s Titan Industries Ltd., couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for the diamond industry’s growth potential in India at the Rapaport International Diamond Conference (IDC) 2009, held on September 10.

“The diamond jewelry industry in the country is now worth $3 billion in retail value, which from a U.S. context may not appear very impressive. But purely from a growth perspective  — it has nearly a 20 percent annual growth rate and no signs of slackening — it will certainly take India to a much bigger level, to $7.5 to $8 billion in the next five years,” he attested.

Starting out with as few as 1,700 diamond jewelry stores in 1994, India now has more than 12,000 doors, according to Venkatraman. “So access to diamond jewelry has never been better.” He went on to illustrate some of the characteristics that make the Indian jewelry marketplace unique.

Venkatraman explained that every jeweler in the Indian market must have a policy of taking back jewelry for exchange or cash and must price it competitively. “Last year, we had over $2 billion in just the exchange of gold and diamond jewelry. So you can imagine the need to deal with it in a very professional and systematic manner,” he remarked.

Jewelers who understand India’s many cultures have an advantage. For example, in a Hindu marriage, there is a ceremony in which the bride and groom walk around a fire seven times to express their commitment to one another. Each turn around the fire is represented by a particular symbol, such as a lotus flower, a grain of rice, jasmine, etc. Tanishq designed a collection of jewelry with pieces built around each one of those symbols.

Venkatraman explained that the line “has a deeper meaning that appeals rather significantly to couples. It can even become a collectible, where the woman has the man buy her each piece.”

The rich history of India is inspirational, as well. Last year, there was a critically and commercially successful movie about the true story of a sixteenth-century marriage between a Muslim prince and a Hindu princess. Tanishq created historically accurate jewelry for the cast. “The movie gave Tanishq so much cachet, authority and stature in the country that the brand rub-off that followed us is still going on,” Venkatraman stated. He stressed that stories have consistently helped his brand differentiate itself.

Venkatraman closed his speech with thoughts on how Indian and U.S. jewelry retailers can improve. “I am told that shopping in the U.S. is like a stress-busting thing. If that is the case, are the jewelry stores sanctuaries?”

Stores that are popular with younger shoppers are a source of inspiration for Venkatraman.  At Apple stores, bookstores and perfume counters, he noted,

customers can try products and cultivate the desire to own them without pressure to buy. He posed the question, “Can we have a philosophy for jewelry salespeople so they are not commission sharks, but which gives them an idea of serving?”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - October 2009. To subscribe click here.

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