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BW Businessworld

Man With The Golden Touch

Ketan Kothari’s mastery in finance and financial education has helped Augmont chart a path of growth and rigorous improvisation

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There is gold in everything that Ketan Kothari and his company, Augmont does. “I have established Augmont, India’s only company which provides products related to the complete lifecycle management of gold be it digital gold, gold coins and bars, loans against gold, scrap gold, gold FD, gold bonds, gold ETFs and investible jewelry on EMI,” says Kothari, a double major in Finance who has also done Bachelors in Management Studies and a few short courses from MIT (Fintech) and Harvard (BGEI).

Augmont is an integrated precious metals management company with operations in trading of gold and silver coin and bar through its online platform, gold refining and manufacturing of tamper proof packaged jew­elry. Its offerings are given through a combination of digital applications, physical stores, and channel partners. 

Augmont has over 10 million retail customers, and it has done over two million deliveries to the poorest of poor across India. 

According to Kothari, “Major challenges included regulations, unorgan­ised structure of the industry and mindset of the participants. I had to work hard on product design, educational roadshows and meet people on ground to really make things happen. Internally, I faced cultural challenges which needed convincing and case study approach. I am the only one who has brought about so many innovations in India’s most loved commodity/investment — gold.” 

“This industry is tricky and sometimes negative in the eyes of the regula­tors, bankers, investors, etc but to evolve and grow despite these challenges, I don’t know of anyone who would have done it in a single industry. Since the impact of gold on India’s economy is significant, my role has helped bring about positive structural changes for the public at large,” he says. 

During the pandemic, Kothari found that virtual meetings had their benefits as well as disadvantages. “In virtual meetings, sometimes it’s diffi­cult to take calls for major work, large capital raising, larger deals, etc. as you can’t gauge emotions and other aspects missing in virtual meetings. New capital raising was halted for some time and fortunately, we had enough cash to sustain so Covid didn’t really impact us in that sense. Covid did bring about major logistical challenges in gold business,” he says.

In this fast-moving technologi­cal age, companies need to respond quickly to advances in technology. “Innovation can take many forms, it can be a new idea, product, method or process, you can innovate to meet your cus­tomers’ need, adapt to change or to grow your business. Whether you talk about SPOT platform (India’s largest physical gold delivery system), Digi Gold (India’s first platform to buy gold and silver with as little as Re 1), EMI Gold (enabling the poorest customer to buy their first gold gram through innovation in design and delivery) or Gold FD (enabling people to deposit their gold with banks for annual interest income), we have been the pioneers and have been constantly innovating our products and processes which has kept us ahead of the competi­tion, improved our reach and won customers,” he explains.

Employee experience and well-being must take center-stage, according to him. “Both mental and physical well-being of employees is key, as they are your first brand ambassadors. Internal communica­tion is what can make or break your brand reputation during the crisis. Internal communication is as good as external communication.” 

He feels that different products have different competition. However, the market is huge and they are here for the long run. “There are short-term hiccups but when your product is superior and the intent is right, customers rec­ognise and stick to you. Tech dis­ruption is the risk for all industries including gold. Gold is uniquely positioned as a commodity or a currency depending upon the requirements,” he says. 

In crisis-ridden scenarios like Covid-19, customers expect clarity in information shared and timely responses from the brand.“To remain relevant and trustworthy to all your stakeholders, content lead­ership becomes extremely critical. During such situations, content has the power to build long-term relationships with customers, employees, shareholders and can drive consumer behaviour to strong brand loyalty,” he signed off.