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It is one of the biggest diamond manufacturers in the country with a sprawling, ni-tech factory. But while it believes that technology, skills and business acumen count for a lot, the core philosophy of the Shree Ramkrishna Export (SRK) group is that integrity, hard work and honesty are what make the difference. Stephen Rego traces the saga of a company that never lost sight of these principles in its journey from a small, dingy workspace to a mammoth 2,50,000 sq ft premises.
By: Diamond World News Service
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Jan 11 2012 3:45PM
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Reference: 6631  

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Today as their diamonds zip up and down the superfast highways of the worldwide web, being traded in real time on computers, laptops, ipads, Blackberrys and other smart mobile devices, it seems difficult to believe that there was a time when Govindbhai Dholakia, the chairman of the over Rs 1,600 crore SRK Group, traversed the streets of Surat riding pillion on a bicycle to procure rough, and made a weekly train journey to Mumbai to sell the resultant polished.

Yet, that’s just how the saga of one of India’s leading diamond manufacturer-exporters began over four decades ago. That was the time when Surat had just a few hundred diamond cutters, and the dazzling stones were sized up by experts who then cut, sawed and polished them in small, dingy workshops. Govindbhai was one of those pioneering artisans, having joined the industry when still in his teens, and soon developed a skilled eye and hand that could coax amazing yields (by the then prevailing standards) out of the rough he worked with.

By 1964, Govindbhai had moved out on his own as an independent entrepreneur with a small cutting unit. It was the foundations for what was eventually to become the multi-crore Shree Ramkrishna Export (SRK) group, a global operation with one of the largest and most modern diamond cutting factories in Surat and affiliates in all the key global trade centres as well.

A visit to the 2,50,000 sq ft facility that now houses all the group’s manufacturing activity and is one of the most technologically advanced factories in the world, incorporating the latest diamond planning and cutting equipment, plus sophisticated IT and network solutions designed by world’s most renowned IT company, gives little indication of how different the early days were.

In 1970, Govindbhai set up a fledgling manufacturing operation, and in 1976, he along with his partners Bhagwanji Patel and Virjibhai Godhani, launched a small manufacturing operation following a very rudimentary business model. Working with borrowed tools in a small workspace, and supplementing their finances by working in factories, the three operated through middlemen, earning a small percentage on each consignment of stones that they cut and polished. However it was soon clear to them that dealing directly with the sellers and buyers made more business sense. So, though it was difficult to get the initial breakthrough into the closely knit diamond trading community where relations were based entirely on trust, they persisted, and finally managed to do so, after saving up enough to purchase their first parcel of 10 cts of rough. The next few years followed a familiar routine – cycling around Surat to procure rough, and a weekly train journey to Mumbai to sell the polished (“prices were higher there”), gradually accumulating the funds to take the next big leap.

That came in 1986, when Govindbhai set up a full-fledged manufacturing facility in the heart of the diamond district in Surat, doubling his production capacity to 7.2 million stones per annum. Growth was steady, even spectacular, and within a decade, a second sprawling factory, replete with modern equipment, was added on. By 1996, SRK had more than 1,200 expert workmen and 500 office staff. Recognition swiftly followed – in 1997 the Government of India acknowledged the group as an ‘Export House’ and then in 1998 as a ‘Trading House’ as well.

The stage was now set for the company to go global – in 1997 it made its first foray into the European market by commencing operations in Antwerp, Belgium through a marketing affiliate D. Goldi bvba, which was eventually followed by V.Goldi Ltd. in Israel (2003), S.Goldi (Asia) Ltd. in Hong Kong and Jewel Goldi in New York (both in 2004). Then in 2007, operations spread to mainland China under the banner of R. Goldi (Shanghai) Diamond Co. Ltd.

Earlier in 2003, SRK had ventured into jewelllery, establishing a dedicated manufacturing arm, Jewel Goldi, in SEEPZ, Mumbai to cater to the International market.

The story, however, is not one of size and capacity alone. In fact, quality has been as, if not more, important a parameter in the evolution of the group. It has achieved ISO 9001-2008 certification, constantly maintaining and establishing standard practices and systems. SRK has also achieved the “DTC Accredited Business” Programme status by meeting the same stringent De Beers Best Practice Principles (BPP) requirements as DTC sightholders.

Technology has always been an essential ingredient of the company’s success story too. In 2007 it was honoured by Sarin Technology Ltd., for being the first company in the world to own 100+ planning machines. The company’s state of the art manufacturing facility at Surat houses 5,000 committed employees and utilises cutting-edge machinery and systems. There are an impressive array of laser machines, planner machines, auto bruters, maxi bruters, auto sliders and other equipment. The factory has the highest number of rough planners in the world assuring the maximum yield and best possible cut grade for every stone. Each and every gem passes through the stringent testing of high-tech machines and diamond experts.

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