Over the years, Kolkata has metamorphosed from being a city with little industrial production and infrastructural development to becoming the trading hub for Indian consumers from the Northeastern states, Bihar, Nepal and Bangladesh. The metropolitan city is renowned for its tea, jute, leather and wood industries that are generating huge revenues for the state. But above all, lately Kolkata has also become a major centre for gems and jewellery in India. The metropolitan city is famous for its jewellery manufacturing capabilities, skilled labour and diversity from traditional gold jewellery to modern designed diamond jewellery. The Industry has come so far and is poised for a long way to go.
Jewellery Manufacturing Centre of East India :
Kolkata is a major manufacturing centre for diamond, gold and other precious and semi-precious jewellery in India. The market has really grown and the recent recession as such had no significant effect on sales, says Amit Bhutoria of Sim Jewellery, a diamond jewellery manufacturer. However, despite receiving many orders his company is not getting sufficient supply of goods, he adds.
History has it that Bengali Karigars were taken to Mumbai and trained to manufacture gold and diamond jewellery. Today Karigars from the region are amongst the most preferred labour in the Indian precious industry. Around 95 per cent of the retailers in Kolkata are manufacturers of jewellery and more than 50 per cent of the manufactured jewellery is sold outside the city.
Emerging Jewellery Retail Market :
The Kolkata jewellery retail market is pegged at an approximate Rs. 2,500 crores. Specialists in carat up jewellery and heavy diamond sets, Vikash Jain of B C Jain Jewellers says that they have an old clientele and that their jewellery is sold all over India. Nilesh Parekh of Shree Ganesh Jewellery House Ltd, which has recently launched an IPO, says, “The retail market in the city is a very diverse consumer market, where gold consumption is more followed by diamonds.” He further states that retail is part of their forward integration plans. They intend to take the GAJA brand forward and launch consumer-specific jewellery collections. The company already has around 10 retail outlets and plans around 49 more retail outlets in Tier II and Tier III Indian cities and towns in next three years’ time.
One of the first to open an exquisite diamond store in Kolkata, Nirmal Kriplani of Kriplani & Sons says, “Kolkata market is the silent dragon, one of the oldest hubs of diamond trading and consumption in India. The size of the retail sector is very hard to judge as there are more retailers operating from the unorganised sector than the organised ones and probably doing bigger volumes too.” Having been in retail business for the last 25 years and with two showrooms, Ratan Lal Agarwal of RR Agarwal Jewellers says, “The retail market is still at a nascent stage if you compare it with other retail markets like Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, etc. There is high potential for growth. The retail end jewellery market of Kolkata shows a promising future.” His company is already in the process of opening another retail outlet.
Nevertheless, some feel the role of the media and understanding the importance of its market presence would add value to jewellery. Madanlal Bamalwa of Nemichand Bamalwa & Sons, a leading jeweller in India and pioneer for introducing retail trade of 22/22 kt gold ornaments observers, “In last 20 years due to mass production and extensive manufacturing, the working hours and work pressure has increased whereas cut-throat competition has led to a reduction of profit margins in the business. The primary means of value addition in jewellery is through new strategies of marketing and advertising.”
Jewellery Trends in Kolkata :
So as the city opens opportunities of growth in the wholesale and retail of jewellery, it becomes vital to know “what is hot and what is not” in the jewellery market. Although the consumption and demand of gold jewellery surpasses that of any other material in the city, yet there is a steadily increasing demand for diamond-studded jewellery and modern designs. Madanlal Bamalwa says, “Trends and design preferences vary depending upon the client’s status level as well as their social circle. People want their jewellery to be appreciated. Moreover, preference of design highly depends upon the personality of the wearers as well as their lifestyle. The younger generation demands diamond jewellery to suit their lifestyles and apparels.”
According to Vikash Jain, “Until two years back 5 to 10 carat single gemstone ring or earrings were doing very well, which has changed to single line carat-up diamond bangles.”
With the change in the consumer’s preferences and tastes, a glimpse of the astrological gemstones, traditional jewellery, handcrafted gold jewellery and diamond jewellery trade in the city became imperative…
Indian Hub of ‘Graharatnas’ :
According to Indian astrology, each planet has been assigned particular gemstone. In Kolkata, the gemstones are known as Graharatnas meaning gemstones for planets derived from the words ‘Graha’ meaning Planet and ‘Ratna’ meaning Gemstone. Also known as, Rashiratna or Navaratna in other parts of India, Kolkata sells and consumes the maximum quantity of Graharatnas in the country. The city supplies the gemstones to the rest of Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, Orissa, Jharkhand, and some parts of Uttar Pradesh. The city also exports the gemstones to the neighbouring countries Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Kundan- Meena Jadau Jewellery :
Kundan-Meena Jadau Jewellery symbolize old traditions and are manufactured in Jaipur, Bikaner, Hyderabad, Sardarshahar and Varanasi. Most of the Marwari (Rajasthani) families possess huge quantities of this style of jewellery. Differing from the traditional design of Kundan-Meena Jadau Jewellery created elsewhere, Kolkata uses only Meena (enamel) in its Meena jewellery designed in French and English style. The city has been witnessing a huge demand for designer custom-made jewellery. Varda Goenka, a jewellery designer and owner of Diagold – a brand synonymous over the years with trendy designs quality products and exemplary service, says, “The designer jewellery market is picking up. The customer likes the involvement of a designer in customizing her jewellery.”
Handcrafted Gold Jewellery Market :
Kolkata has been renowned for its gold jewellery since centuries. Lakkhi Babu, P.C. Chandra, B.C. Sen, G.C. Addy are a few famous names in traditional Bengali gold jewellery. The city uses tons of gold to manufacture and sell gold jewellery. Ratan Lal Agarwal says, “The hike in gold prices in last one year has not really affected the consumer purchases. The customers buy jewellery because of the trust in gold and because they consider it to be auspicious during festival seasons and weddings.”
Diamonds in Kolkata :
Kolkata is a manufacturing hub for diamond jewellery due to availability of cheap and skilled artisans. The industry in the city uses huge quantity of small diamonds as raw material in manufacturing Jewellery
Traditionally Bengalis are not the consumers of diamond jewellery. Mainly Rajasthani (Marwadi) and Gujaratis in Kolkata love to wear diamond Jewellery. Marwadi Jewellers besides few Gujaratis and others own most of the diamond jewellery shops. Traditional Bengali jewellers now have also started venturing into diamond jewellery business. On the other hand, wealthy merchants of Kolkata have a love for big sized diamonds. Solitaires between three to ten carats are very popular and sell at high prices. There is a huge demand for Solitaire bangles, earrings, and single pieces.
Umesh Jain of C.K Jain Jewellers Pvt. Ltd. who is a manufacturer and retailer of diamond jewellery in Kolkata, says that Kolkata is a huge market for heavy and chunky diamond jewellery. Since the opening of their new store in Fort Knox jewellery mall, their sales have really picked up and they receive demand for mostly diamond jewellery and related queries. According to Nirmal Kriplani, “Generally J/K color and VS/SI is sold but over the years, the market has matured and has understood the importance of good quality and the connoisseur is ready to pay for it.”