IGI is a people’s company: Tehmasp Printer
Tehmasp Printer, MD, IGI-India
From educating people in India about diamonds to becoming one of the foremost authorities in certification, International Gemological Institute has come a long way. It was the vision of Roland Lorie, CEO, IGI Worldwide, along with the team IGI India led by Tehmasp Printer that resulted in the brand’s success in India. In an interaction with Kavita Parab, Printer revealed that IGI’s core strength lies in its people and the trust it beholds in the minds of the industry.
The International Gemological Institute (IGI) was established in Antwerp in 1975 and is the largest independent gemological laboratory and appraisal institute worldwide, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Antwerp, Hong Kong, India, Bangkok, Tokyo, Dubai, Tel Aviv, Cavalese and Shanghai. In India, IGI has three laboratories in Mumbai and one each in Kolkata, New Delhi, Thrissur, Surat, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Bangalore and Hyderabad. It also has two offices at BKC and one each in SEEPZ, MIDC-Andheri and Opera House in Mumbai. IGI is ISO (International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001: 2000) certified and IEC/17025:2005 accredited by NABL. Around the world, IGI diamond grading and gemstone identification reports bring confidence when buying or selling diamonds, gemstones and jewellery. A commitment to understanding consumer concerns has motivated IGI to develop comprehensive analysis and clear documentation for consumers. During the conversation, Printer talked about IGI’s journey and future plans.
Tell us briefly about the journey of IGI and your association with it?
IGI in India was started twenty years ago with 3 gemologists and a couple of support staff. I knew that in India, my task would be challenging. Though the industry was involved in diamond cutting and polishing, Roland Lorie, CEO of IGI, when he first came to India, was advised that there is no market for diamond certification in India. The first task was to make Indian diamond industry understand the concept of diamond certification and common grading standards of the 4 C’s. We were primarily instrumental in educating the entire industry about certification and diamond grading standards. Thus, the international grading standards were introduced to the diamond manufacturers. With the standardised process in place, the international buyers would not have to come and get the products checked. With our certification, the products could be exported overseas; thus saving time and logistics cost of the buyer and seller.
I started my groundwork at the factory level, educating the diamond cutters and the polishers. It was also the time when diamonds cut in India weren’t at par with the Belgian cut, which was the epitome of perfection. I must say today, the diamonds cut in India have excelled and the transition has been remarkable.
So, if you ask me about the biggest milestone of IGI in India, then it has to be making the concept of diamond certification an accepted norm. This gave an opportunity to cutters, polishers, traders and manufacturers to view the diamond from a refined perspective.
What were the initial difficulties for IGI in India?
IGI has come a long way from the time when the diamantaire would not part with the stone and insist on sitting right next to the gemologist until he would get it checked. Initially, it was difficult to convince the diamantaires that their goods were completely safe at IGI.
What were the challenges you faced at the retail level?
One of the challenges was to certify jewellery at the retail level. To overcome this, we started first-ofits- kind mobile labs in the country; where the graders would travel to the retailers who could not access the grading facility along with a few support staff members and a photographer. The jewellers could get their jewellery certified without really emptying their showroom. We have taken the grading site to the client as against them bringing their goods to us. Slowly, the market witnessed the presence of IGI certified jewellery. With this we were able to reach out to a maximum number of jewellers and cities. At the consumer lever, from zero certification in 2000s, today IGI has covered over 85 per cent certified jewellers under this program.
How has the response been to ‘Know Your Diamond’ & Retail Support Program? How many jewellers/cities have been covered so far?
The Retail Support Program was to train the retailers while the ‘Know Your Diamond’ program is for the customers of the retailer. While former is to help the retailers, the latter is to empower the customer with the right kind of knowledge about their diamonds. Under the ‘Know Your Diamond’ program, the jewellers would invite their select number of clients and IGI would conduct a seminar on important basic information about diamonds for these consumers. This practice helped in a massive manner for the consumers to make an informed decision about diamonds.
What is IGI’s strategy to stay ahead of competition?
There has not been any particular strategy that we have employed to stay ahead in the game. But I would say that we were the first ones to understand the issues that the Indian gems and jewellery industry has been going through and we have accordingly designed our services. Initially, jewellers would ship their goods to our Mumbai lab. To save the jewellers’ time and cost of logistics, we introduced ‘mobile lab’ which could reach out to the jewellers in far-off places. These mobile labs were a catalyst for the expansion of our laboratories.
Even for the jewellery manufacturing units in SEEPZ, our lab helped the manufacturers get their products checked before exporting. Prior to IGI’s service in SEEPZ, they would export excess products due to fear of rejection. As IGI certification is valid across the world, these manufacturers would get certification done in India and then export the exact quantum of the products. Thus, these manufacturers didn’t have to worry about rejection from international retailers and could save on the logistics cost as well. With IGI setting up an onsite grading facility at trade shows was yet another initiative wherein the buyers could make a conscious purchase. The trade blessed us for this. In terms of competition, then GIA, IGI and HRD control the world market for certification. However, we are the leaders in terms of jewellery certification. IGI is a holistic lab that not only provides grading facilities for loose stones but also for colour stones, pearls and jewellery.
As you lead IGI, what do you think are the biggest challenges for you right now? What is your strategy to tackle it?
We have always embraced challenges and it has only helped us explore new and innovative avenues. When you see a problem and work towards overcoming the challenge, you have your strategy! The challenge is the presence of synthetic diamonds in rising numbers and its unethical inclusion in jewellery. IGI has developed an equipment to tackle this threat. Currently, about 50 such machines are placed at our grading sites and at various retailer outlets to help the industry fight this issue.
Tell us more about IGI-D Show?
The pan India buyer seller knowledge meet - IGI-D Show – debuted back in 2011 in Hyderabad. It has clearly carved a niche for itself among premium events in the industry. Popular for its unique format, the show has the country’s leading diamond and diamond jewellery manufacturers and retailers connect, associate and explore new commercial avenues. So far, we have completed eight editions across India. This year, the event revolved around the millennials and Aakaar, the design lounge was an initiative to help the manufacturers and retailers comprehend the millennial’s desire in jewellery. Through the show, IGI has succeeded at introducing the fraternity to an amazing confluence of ideas, novel creations, unexplored business avenues and most importantly, invaluable knowledge and fructuous relationships.
What does IGI have in store for the future in terms of testing and technology?
We have a highly experienced team of scientists who are constantly monitoring the developments in terms of technology and conducting research to empower the industry and to facilitate growth.
Do you have any parting thoughts to share?
IGI is a people’s company. IGI owes its success to its people. We at IGI work as a family and all of us are devoted to the same cause and that is IGI. My people are my biggest strength.