|CURRENT ISSUE AUGUST 09, 2004|
The Rock on a Roll
Shanta Sengupta was drowned in gold jewellery at her wedding five years ago. But she did not get what she had always craved for-diamonds. Some months ago, when her mother wanted to gift her something on her sister's wedding, she went for the stone. "I have always aspired for one. Now I finally have it," says Sengupta.
The world's largest gold jewellery market has a different glitter these days. Diamond jewellery is suddenly showing up in the wardrobes of middle-class Indians like Sengupta. A study by the Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) for the Diamond Trading Company (DTC), the parent firm of De Beers, in January shows a dramatic growth in diamond jewellery sales-24 per cent in 2003, up from only 9 per cent the previous year.
In the past three years, Tanishq, the largest branded jewellery company in India, saw its diamond jewellery sales more than treble. The Mumbai-based Gitanjali Group, which owns and retails Gili brand and has a licensee arrangement with DTC for brands like Nakshatra, has seen sales surge from Rs 15-20 crore in 1997-98 to around Rs 200 crore in 2003. "Diamonds have set the Indian jewellery market on fire," says an exuberant Harish Bhat, CEO of Tanishq. "This has become the fastest growing segment of the jewellery market." To be fair, diamond jewellery sales in India are still small-just 15 per cent of the Rs 50,000 crore jewellery industry. But the sizzling growth in its sales has taken the industry by surprise.
Diamonds always had a great aspirational value but were counted out due to their stiff price tags. This has changed. Today a Tanishq diamond piece starts at Rs 1,950. The Gitanjali Group in Mumbai has "pieces" starting at Rs 1,000. Says Mehul Choksi, managing director, Gitanjali Group: "With lower entry points, we are trying to reach out to a bigger segment." Availability too has grown. The number of shops retailing diamond jewellery has gone up from 8,000 in 1997-98 to around 40,000 in 2003. For Kolkata-based Senco Gold, diamonds contributed just 10 per cent to its total sales five years ago. "Now they account for more than 30 per cent," says Shankar Sen, company chairman.
The entry of organised players like DTC and Tanishq has helped. Promotions like DTC's Nakshatra Utsav and "Diamond Season" managed to pull in large number of gold buyers into buying diamonds. About 50 per cent of the jewellers who participated in the "Diamond Season" saw 74 per cent "conversions".
Trendy designs have also helped. "Subtle and lightweight ones are a big draw," says Premjit Sengupta, area manager with DTC's Diamond Promotion Service. Big retailers have launched special collections like Tanishq's "Daytimes" starting at Rs 1,960 and DTC's Asmi range for the working woman. Gift items like animal-shaped pendants have been a hit.
The organised players have helped bring in transparency and credibility. Their certificates of guarantee with products help them gain the customers' confidence as well as educate the latter on what they are buying and the buy-back schemes. Interest-free loans from banks like ICICI Bank and Citibank are also available. The Choksi Group is now planning to offer insurance cover for 24 months.
The love for diamonds of the middle classes is good news. But maintaining its aspirational value and brand equity will be a challenge.