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Stephen Rego

He has been a journalist since the mid-1980s, and has spent close to two decades tracking the gem and jewellery industry while holding different editorial positions in industry specific publications and websites

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BW Businessworld

On The Road To Modernisation

A once traditional industry has now embraced modernisation. And the rising interest in B2B trade shows like the Signature IIJS and the IGJME held recently in Mumbai is a clear reflection of this change

Over the last few days, all roads in the gem and jewellery industry within India led to Mumbai where the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) hosted two concurrent trade shows - the 9th edition of Signature IIJS focused on jewellery and the 3rd edition of India Gem and Jewellery Machinery Expo (IGJME) focused on technology and machinery associated with the trade.

While the final number of visitors who attended the event - held for the first time as concurrent twin shows at a common venue, is not available at the time of writing, the indications were that the total could cross the expected figure of 15,000.

Visitors to another trade event held in July-August each year - the India International Jewellery Show (IIJS) go up to double this number, even though both shows are fairly strict in regulating entry to bonafide members of the trade.

Such huge turnouts reflect the churning that the industry has been experiencing over the last two decades. The main IIJS is now over three decades old - it was first launched in 1985, and remained a relatively small show till the turn of the millennium.

Ironically, the spurt in visitor traffic also coincided with the show becoming a much stricter B2B platform than its earlier avatar and also marked the beginnings of a huge shift in the mindset and business pracctices of what had till then been a very traditional and largely unorganised industry.

Looking back, one can see that this was the time when the industry had taken two huge leaps. The first was the launch of brands, till then an unheard of proposition. And the second was the introduction of diamond jewellery, especially modern ornaments for daily wear, into what was till then a hugely gold dominated market with jewellery mainly sold for weddings and other special occasions.

Both trends provided an impetus to the rise of a modern, organised sector. The product began to tranform as jewellery purchases were made by younger, new consumers for whom investment was no longer the predominant decision driver. Jewellery was bought for fashion, as accessories, as status symbols, and hence required far superior design and production values than had hitherto been necessary.

Branding, advertising, the instore experience and numerous other aspects of business that had been virtually non-existent in the industry lexicon began to be discussed. And technology, as well as factory- or workshop-based production, gained some momentum.

An indirect fallout of this shift was specialisation. Jewellers who had earlier supervised their own karigars to create designs as per clients' needs, now began to focus more on any one side of the business - retailing or manufacturing - while moving towards becoming larger players.

Today, the organised sector is still relatively small, acounting for about 20% of the domestic jewellery market, but it is growing rapdily. It is dominated by a few national chains such as Tanishq, Gitanjali Jewels, Reliance Jewels, Kalyan Jewellers, Senco etc; an increasing number of regional chains such as TBZ, Kirtilals, GRT, Bhima, PNG etc; and a few large retailers in the metros and big cities. Diamonds are also an important part of the product mix for all these players, and India is now the third largest diamond consuming country in the world with a market size of about $8 billion.

Many of them also offer a range of jewellery to suit the varied cultural tastes of a cosmopolitan large city population. Gifting days like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day that were not part of Indian traditions have now become significant for jewellery buying, with diamond jewellery being the preferred product.

A corollary was the rise of a pure manufacturing sector, with the Andheri MIDC in Mumbai being the first hub for large factory based jewellery production.

A trade show like the IIJS is a reflection of this change, an opportunity for the manufacturers to meet the retailers and vice versa. For many other smaller players, the show is a learning experience and exposure to how they can transform their product and their business.

The newer IGJME, a show focused on machinery and technology will further spur the rise of a modern culture within the industry, introducing the manufacturers to new machines, new technologies and new techniques.

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