What are your plans for future? How do you plan to face the situation? Do you feel that there is a challenge involved in the current scenario?
Of course, lockdown has its own set of challenges. We can’t just open our stores -- once lock down is lifted and wait for customers to walk in and expect that business will take place like before.
When lockdown is lifted, it will take a lot of effort to inform customers that our showrooms have opened, and attract them. We will have to do a lot of social media advertising and whatsapp messages will have to be sent out. We will have to be a bit aggressive in getting the masses to come into our stores.
Plus a host of social distancing norms, and allowing a limited number of staff to work on a particular day, plus allowing only a few clients to walk into the store along with intensive sanitizing, etc and several other precautionary measures will have to be put in place. You need to start this process of gaining the customers’ confidence back in our trade – every jeweller will have to take these steps.
First of all, there are people who will need money – a certain section – especially the lower income groups will come ahead to sell their jewellery.
Here, the jewellers will have to keep their word and buy back these goods. They can’t turn their back on these individuals, because if they do that, these people may never come back to you to buy gold. They may go to some other store, which they know gives them a fair price for their gold – when they are in need.
Winning the confidence of every customer is important and jewellers have to retain their goodwill as well, they cannot go back on their own words and turn such people away.
Other type of customers will be high net worth individuals who want to buy gold as an investment.
So you need to offer them the best solutions – whether they want to go in for investing in jewellery or gold coins, or bars. You have to give the best service to both of these clients – you have to be the best brand ambassadors of your trade.
Sales persons should also be trained in being good brand ambassadors of your business. The rich people will have idle money, because travel was not possible, share market and other investments are giving bad returns and gold is outshining all the investment options. So this is the best time to invest in gold -- every trader must be able to convince such clients into buying gold.
Most big showrooms display the buying and selling rate of gold and this kind of transparency in dealings will help every store owner to regain the trust of his customer.
This is a crucial time for jewellers to prove their genuineness to their clients. Now, jewellers should not raise the exchange rate, etc. These coming six months – to – one year will be a trying phase for all business owners.
What are the top three changes that you anticipate post lockdown?
One is that people will have buying constraints, so they need to offer light weight jewellery (one which looks heavy, but is actually light in weight) – as many buyers may not have the budgets to buy heavy jewellery.
Second, is the technological change. You need to reach out to your clients – use the social media platforms creatively. From inventory management to offering services to your end users you need to reinvent your business practices.
Third, would be the hygiene standards and service with which you connect with your customers will have to be better than that in the pre-Covid phase.
Your sales persons, too will have to be more affable and go that extra mile to provide excellent services to every client.
This will help build the business greatly. May be orders were booked at Rs 38,000 per 10 gm rate of gold -- they need to be delivered when the rate is Rs 45,000. Here, jewellers are at a loss. It isn’t easy – but we need to find a golden mean and fulfill our orders.
You need to reach out to your clients – use the social media platforms creatively. From inventory management to offering services to your end users you need to reinvent your business practices
How will a supply crunch affect business?
Now, if you see in the current scenario – there are local suppliers of wholesale jewellery. There are no heavy sales happening. Many jewellers have reported about 15 to 20 per cent of regular sales. So by the time they are really able to sell off all the goods in their showrooms – which is a completely hypothetical situation – suppliers in Mumbai and Kolkata will have opened for business.
In fact, despite the lockdown, wholesalers have got all their orders over whatsapp, email, etc. They have made some of these orders ready with ten percent workforce. So they will ship them as soon as the markets open. It is a matter of time; till then retailers will have to source it locally or make it on their own.
Large showrooms have excess stock, and if they are truly able to sell all of it. It is a great thing for the whole gems and jewellery business. They will have a pile of cash all of which they can use to buy new stock and business will be great. But we all know, in the current scenario this isn’t easy.
A lot of smaller jewellers are facing liquidity crunch – how should they manage this situation?
Those who are over-leveraged will surely face severe liquidity crunch. Therefore in every situation a wise businessman will plan his financial portfolio scrupulously. In case of the rest, this may not actually be the case. The excess stock can be sold off and liquidity crunch can be managed.
Post lockdown, every business owner should keep loans minimal. Government has given the option of deferring loan EMIs and several other sops for the business community and business owners can study them carefully and use them to their advantage.
What would be the one lesson that this pandemic has taught you as a business owner?
Change is the only ‘constant’. So this phase has taught me to be adaptable to change. Nothing will be forever. You need to plan your finances well and never rely overly on borrowings. Loans should be taken only if necessary.
A smart businessman has to reinvent himself and change as per the time and situation in which he finds himself.
Health crisis can relapse, what if there is a Corona 2.0 occurring two years down the line? You, can never really say. Therefore, one has to be very flexible to adapt to every situation.
These adaptations begin small – first change your lifestyle, keep your health intact, take safety measures for your staff and customers. You need to take stock of all the important things – in your life and business. One needs to be flexible enough to change as per the given scenario.
Do you have a digital app for sale of gems and jewellery?
We have an ecommerce portal, and have tie-ups with Amazon and others. We will get an app in a few days to come. But in principle, I don’t think buying jewellery is something Indian buyers would like to do online or through an app.
Indian buyers will want to visit their own jeweller – see, touch and try on the piece of jewellery they want to buy. They want the experience of how that piece of jewellery suits them – no sane Indian buyer will buyer lakhs of rupees worth piece of jewellery at the click of a button. After all, it is their hard earned money. If their traditional jeweller is far away – they may visit a local store.
Disposable incomes are on a steady decline, because of pay cuts, and lay-offs. Do you think it will affect gems and jewellery business?
I don’t think this will affect the gems and jewellery business greatly; because weddings will happen any which ways. Traditionally, no Indian function is complete without jewellery, so demand for gems and jewellery will surely be there – irrespective of the economic slowdown.
Secondly, jewellery business runs a parallel economy of its own. Jewellers act as bankers to the major population of the country. As in, people buy jewellery when they have money and sell it when they need money.
Why do fathers give so much of jewellery to their daughters in marriage? It is because this jewellery is her financial security – her own wealth which she can cash whenever she wants and do anything with that money – maybe start afresh -- her own life or business or reinvest it in other options. It her financial security that he guarantees by giving her lots of jewellery in her marriage.
Festivals are going to celebrated, buying gold is an important part of our lives – this is part of our 5,000 year-old history – it won’t go away just because of a pandemic or economic slowdown.
Indians like to buy jewellery and adorn themselves. Indian women love jewellery more than anything else.
Moreover, there are several associations like the World Gold Council and many Indian associations which are selling the whole gems and jewellery trade to the masses and offering solutions to the industry as well.
All in all, I feel gems and jewellery business will sustain itself no matter what. Jewellers can be creative with their business plan and make the most of every situation by reinventing themselves.
Traditionally, no Indian function is complete without jewellery, so demand for gems and jewellery will surely be there – irrespective of the economic slowdown