Luxe Chat: Are Indian Gentlemen Buying Diamonds For Themselves?

At the recently held annual Forevermark Forum 2017 held in Kolkata, the country’s diamond leaders converged to discuss upcoming trends. Forevermark invited authorised jewellers, diamantaires and manufacturers from across the globe to come together on one platform to take stock of the Indian luxury market, network, share ideas and check out the innovations.

I got some facetime with Mr. Sachin Jain, President of Forevermark India, and I got him to shed some light on the current state of the diamond industry in India, as well as to discuss a slowly emerging customer base – the Indian gentleman!
A freewheeling chat.

Riaan: Could you shed some light on the diamond industry with respect to men? Where are we at?
Sachin Jain: It’s a very interesting time that were in. What’s happening is that from a very gold-dominated business, there is a shift towards lifestyle, and the shift towards diamonds is very dramatic. It is a reflection of the lives people lead today. And it’s about the fact that everyone does the same things in different attire. You don’t want to invest in jewellery that has to be put in a locker, only to be worn rarely. From a men’s jewellery point of view, India has always had a strong tradition. Indian men have been wearing strong jewellery always. A lot of our collections include men’s accessories like cufflinks, so a modern attired man has more options for accessories that go beyond a cliché gold chain. So that kind of sensibility is evolving. I think the significance of a wedding ring is also getting more real. I see more men, wearing wedding rings nowadays. We’re now coming out with a couple’s ring, something that we think is going to be interesting. The rings have little cuts, which when joined together, become a heart. So these needs of the consumers are getting fulfilled.

Riaan: So while in the women’s collection you talk about changing trends every year, do you think that in terms of the men’s collections, its more trend driven or piece driven?

Sachin Jain: I think the biggest jewellery trend among men is to start wearing it because “I want to” Men’s jewellery used to be dominated by what the father had said or the pandit had said. That has changed. Now, it’s because what I’m wearing goes with my personality, it talks to me, I want to wear it. You could have a bracelet, a ring, etc for that.

Riaan: Diamond cufflinks are important, then?
Sachin Jain: Extremely! Along with tie pins, cufflinks,etc, all these things are becoming and getting more and more mainstream. A consumer is now spending more on cufflinks maybe 30-40k, the same thing at the same price with a real diamond, has so much more value.

Riaan: So in this space of men’s jewellery, would you be able to share any figures or growth?
Sachin Jain: It is an area that is fairly new for us, we haven’t really put ten years of business in it. However, in the last two years we starting concentrating on it. One of the very interesting trends we’ve seen is that one of our partners, he’s developed bracelets in platinum, with a single Forevermark diamond and that is growing dramatically. It is a one-carat diamond so it’s not a small diamond. So you have just one diamond but a very modern interpretation. But again, as a focus for us, men’s jewellery is fairly recent so in sometime I’ll be able to share numbers. The trend is that I see an acceptance from a retail standpoint.

Riaan: Any changing demographics you’ve noticed? Do you notice that the consumer is getting younger?
Sachin Jain: The speed at which we are catering to the new-age consumer is slightly slower. So having said that, if you typically look at a consumer who gets married, majority of the jewellery that is bought around the time of the married is bought by the family, and not necessarily by the couple. The first time you really gift each other something precious is perhaps three or four or five years after your wedding. We see that emerging sense of buying a solitaire ring or buying cufflinks for a husband really happens at the five year, or ten year anniversary mark. For us, that’s the target audience that we are interested in. From a retail stand point of view, we’re just getting ready and prepared.

Riaan: Have there been any challenges here with respect to the Indian market?

Sachin Jain: There are lots of challenges and opportunities. This trade is very bifurcated so you have brands that you’re working with and people can casually say they’re a 100 year jeweller, which very many are. The problem that comes along with it is that when you’re in this business for so long, you want to keep offering what your early generations have offered to your consumer. Whereas the current consumer’s rate of change is so fast and so dynamic it is necessary for the retail partner to change faster. The other challenge for us is the retail infrastructure. Look at a city like Bombay the retail infrastructure is limited. The average size of a jewellery store, is small. Having restricted retail spaces to offer brands in a meaningful manner always becomes a bigger challenge. As for our retail partners and sales representatives, my goal at Forevermark is to really open the minds of the partners, and start investing in the people who can tell a story. And execute training programs to people who can really translate well to the consumer. It’s about an experience. I had a chance of experiencing a Cartier watch purchase in the Middle East. In India, when you buy that kind of watch it’s again about transaction, price, etc. Over there, it was beyond that. It was the best chocolate they offered, it was the wax stamp put on it. So those things are needed by brands and very necessary for a whole experience

Riaan: Have the GST and demonetization initiatives been roadblocks to the diamond market?
Sachin Jain: Actually, ironically, they haven’t. From an Indian point of view, 2016 was a very challenging year. We had excise duty, we went on a strike. The industry said we won’t pay the excise duty and we put locks outside our own doors and we kept the business shut for 45 days. Very soon we realized it was a mistake. Then, we had demonetization, etc. Keeping all things in mind, last year, our growth was 88% which is phenomenal for our kind of brand. We all wondered the impact of demonetization, but the first half of the year has been the best 6 months that we had ever seen. So I can say that the industry has been doing all right. If you put logics together, we should be getting affected as well, but I think the consumer still needs it. And about GST, my view is , that’s a direction which the whole country is headed to. So I think fundamentally organized players are with it. The government has been very helpful to the industry to sort out whatever problems. There was a lot of openness around it.

Riaan: What’s the next year looking like? What can we expect?

Sachin Jain: So for us, 2017 is going to be an iconic year for sure, from the growth point of view, the sell-throughs we are getting and the acceptance of the trade. We weren’t expecting it. It’s a pleasant surprise. I think the numbers that we will end with this year, will honestly be iconic and will be a memorable year.
I think it’s one of those times that things like GST,etc. will keep happening. From a business point of view, I think that we have to keep focusing on the consumer. The better we know how his life is changing, the small steps, etc. the need of the hour is to be constantly evolving and changing.

 

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