What is the one thing that is worrying you the most, as a businessman in these unprecedented times?

The only thing that is worrying me the most is: What will the future of the gems and jewellery industry be. This is because people’s spending habits will undergo a massive change. Post lockdown, people may not want to spend on jewellery, they may go in for buying necessities. It is uncertain when the jewellery markets would open up. At the same time, I am an eternal optimist.

What are the immediate effects of the pandemic on gems and jewellery industry in India?

Firstly, because of the pandemic spending habits of people will change and secondly gold prices are on an all-time high. When gold prices are high, people generally do not buy gold jewellery. In case of need-based buying, like for instance, there is a function in the family, regardless of prices, those families may buy some gold. 

Post lockdown, even in the month of June, government may restrict large gatherings. In such a case, people may want to spend minimally on everything including jewellery. Budgets of jewellery purchase may come down drastically.

Will online buying of gold be a solution?

Online buying of jewellery in India is difficult to succeed. Here, people need the touch and feel in case of buying jewellery. People may buy gold coins or bars online.

Digital interfaces may not be that welcome, when it comes to buying jewellery. Women like to try on various pieces and usually come together with their other female relatives to buy jewellery. On a digital platform, how they will be able to do this is indeed difficult to explain. 

Here, people need the touch and feel in case of buying jewellery. People may buy gold coins or bars online

What are the hindrances in offline buying, once the stores open?

In case of offline purchases also, many stores are adhering to strict sanitizing methods, and allowing very few number of people to enter, etc. Jewellery cannot be sprayed with sanitisers every now and then. The resulting chemical reaction may take away the newness or shine of the pieces or damage precious stones, etc and this may not be actually be good for buyers as well.

We have designed a specialised app in order to make buying easier for clients. Clients make video calls and we give them an opportunity to get a complete in-store experience. The app allows for a seamless video-call based buying. Clients can narrow down on the jewellery they want to buy. Our sales personnel take the selected ornaments to the house of the client, where she tries them on and selects the ones that she wants. 

How do you think consumers’ preferences in jewellery will change after covid-19?

At least 50,000 weddings in South India have been postponed to next year; post January 2021. Many business analysts are saying that gold prices will increase further and may go up to Rs 55,000 – Rs 80,000 per 10 gm. In such cases, people may buy gold coins now (through online or offline modes). It is easier to buy gold coins or bars online, rather than actual jewellery. They may convert them into jewellery whenever they want.

What is one leadership lesson this pandemic has taught you?

Sharper business acumen will have to be exercised. The pandemic teaches us that we have to be focused on our own business, work harder and do our best.

It makes us mentally and intellectually stronger. It forces us to think outside the box and devise ways to minimize losses and maximise gains, ergonomically. While looking at your own gain, you must learn to ensure holistic growth as well. That’s what this crisis has taught me.

A lot of jewellers are worried about paying staff salaries without any business income and even shutting down their businesses. What would you like to say to them?

I think shutting down the business is never a solution. Problems are temporary, solutions are permanent. The cost of inventory is going to increase because of the increase in gold price, smaller jewellers can sell off their stocks partially and strike a balance between demand and supply and pay off their overheads. As business picks up, the losses will dwindle and they will start booking profits.
 
Do you think there will be a change in spending power in Hyderabad?

Gold business is directly proportional to disposable incomes of people. IT (information technology) needs of businesses, world over will increase and the back-end for many of these businesses is based in India. 

Hyderabad has a lot of IT and ITES companies. The other big sector in Hyderabad is pharma, which too is flourishing in these times. So in Hyderabad, I don’t see gold business going down in the future as well. Agriculture in Hyderabad is also prospering. A major lift irrigation project is coming up in Kaleshwaram. It will ensure a bright future for farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. 

Therefore, I perceive a lot of positive events happening in these states and trust that they will bode well for gems and jewellery sector in this region. Till that time, jewellers need to show patience and take things in their stride. These are challenging times, the whole world has been affected. We have to keep looking after our business expenses and retain human resources.