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

The serious economic crisis that is following closely on the heels of this pandemic worries me a lot. For any business to flourish, socio-economic wellbeing is very important.

One does not flourish on his own, the whole society should be affluent and doing well, only then the economy is healthy and in such an economy all businesses prosper. This is particularly true for the gems and jewellery segment. So it is important that the Indian economy emerges out of the economic crisis rapidly.  

One does not flourish on his own, the whole society should be affluent and doing well, only then the economy is healthy and in such an economy all businesses prosper

What will be the immediate effect of the pandemic on gems and jewellery industry in India?

The gems and jewellery industry is reeling under a lot of market pressures, at the moment: cash crunch, demand-supply inequality, overly competitive market conditions and more. 

These will be some of the immediate outcomes of this pandemic. Every retailer will have to sort out these problems patiently and with a cool mind, Irrespective of the pressures, that may be exerted on an individual – there is always a way to deal with it. This way can be found only with immense patience, and self-sustainability. I have faith in our industry personnel, we have seen tougher situations and emerged stronger each time. This too shall pass.

Every retailer will have to sort out these problems patiently and with a cool mind, Irrespective of the pressures, that may be exerted on an individual – there is always a way to deal with it

Will online buying of gold be a solution?

Online is a good medium of trade. At the same time, one needs to understand that jewellery buying – especially bridal jewellery, etc may not happen online. One has to go digital in order to keep in sync with the rapidly changing market scenario, however the Indian mindset when it comes to jewellery buying cannot be satiated on any digital platform. 

Women come to the store with their family members, they enjoy doing a recce – they love discussing jewellery, its design, weight, style, look and feel and after trying out many pieces they select a few ones, they then freeze on may be just one piece from the few they may have chosen and that too, after much discussion and thinking.
 
Jewellery is expensive and Indians do not like to spend lakhs of rupees without the actual experience of trying out their favourites.

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

Earlier, when customers used to walk into our stores, we used to feel elated. 

All our staff members also used to welcome every client warmly, offer them water, a cold or hot beverage, and amidst a nice talkathon on a varied range of topics, they used to narrow down to what they wanted to buy. Our sales staff then used to spread out a lot of products on the table, for the prospective client to choose from.
 
Now the scene is surely going to be different. Customers will be checked for temperature at the door and their bags, may have to be kept aside at the baggage counter – which may have to prepared separately. Social distancing measures may force store owners to let in only a few clients at a time.
 
Sales staff and clients may look at each other with a tinge of doubt – whether anyone is a silent, asymptomatic carrier of the dreaded virus? Health concerns will supersede buying decisions. Overall, there will be a long spell of wariness. 

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

Gold prices are slated to keep rising, and therefore consumers may keep their budget unchanged, but may have to go in for lightweight jewellery. 

Some clients may buy only the most essential items, and not go in for elaborate purchase, as they may have planned before. Unless there is a function in the family, the masses may postpone buying jewellery altogether. Retailers must be prepared to face all these situations.
 
What is the one leadership lesson this pandemic has taught you?

This pandemic has taught me the importance of ‘courage’. Amidst any trying situation sheer courage and will power will show you the way out.

If you give in to pessimism, self-pity, fear, etc there is no way out. Face the situation courageously and confidently you will find a solution. At times, solutions come up quite unexpectedly, for the one who keeps an open mind and looks forward to adapting to change. 

This pandemic has taught me the importance of ‘courage’. Amidst any trying situation sheer courage and will power will show you the way out

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

The gems and jewellery industry is a cash-rich business, many store owners have reaped good profits in the past. Now, is the time to plough back some of that profit into the business in order to keep it going. 

This is the core of any business. Ups and downs are part of life and more so of business. Every business owner is a risk taker. This situation will change. It will never remain the same. 

Daylight follows the darkest of nights. Never give up. Every business has its challenges, shutting down is never a way out.