The first time one hears the figure, one wonders if you heard it correctly. So one pauses, hesitates a bit and then carefully inquires –“121 production units?” Vallabhbhai Patel, chairman, Kiran Group smiles and nods to confirm that it is indeed true. That translates into a massive 700,000 sq ft of factory space in Surat and Ahmedabad.
And that’s not all!
Each of the units is a dedicated facility, specialising in a particular category of goods. Together they employ 24,000 skilled craftsmen and professionals, making Kiran India’s largest provider of employment in the diamond industry. And even as one is thinking that this is an enterprise driven entirely by human capital, one learns that Kiran also is single largest user of Sarin machines in the industry, 448 currently. It was one of the earliest entrants into the Sarin ‘century club’ way back in 2008, and has just become the first company to cross the 400 figure.
The volumes of stones that pass through this massive infrastructure are equally mind boggling. Each year, the company processes over 5 mn carats of rough, giving an output of nearly 1.47 mn carats of polished diamonds.
Confirming all these figures, Patel adds, “We facilitate the growth of over 1000 jewellery businesses worldwide.”
Of course, it was not always like that. When Kiran was launched by three brothers, Vallabhbhai S. Patel, Babubhai S. Lakhani and Mavjibhai S. Patel in 1985, it was a relatively small manufacturing firm, just like so many others in the diamond hub of Surat. Growth was steady over the first decade, with the company being recognised by the government as an ‘Export House’ in 1996 and a ‘Trading House’ in 1999. In this period, Kiran consolidated its increasingly large export business by setting up a marketing arm under the name Kiran Exports BVBA in Belgium and entering into a strategic marketing venture with Millenium Diamonds Co. Ltd. in Thailand.
The first stride into the ‘big’ league was actually a relatively small one by today’s standards. But in 2001 acquiring a 750 sq ft main office in Mumbai to cope with the increasing sales and marketing activity seemed a large step indeed, especially since at that time it represented a five-fold increase over the office from which the company had operated till then. During the year it also set up a Far East office in Hong Kong.
It was in 2003 that Kiran took a really large leap with the establishment of an ultra-modern manufacturing facility measuring 40,000 sqft at Surat, and after that there was really no looking back. The following year, the technology at the factory was enhanced with the installation of 30 new laser machines to ensure faster production.
By 2004, Kiran was employing over 10,000 people and had received ISO 9001:2000 certification, and in 2005 it moved a notch higher into the second phase of technical advancement aimed at achieving better quality and quicker production. The number of laser machines now touched 55, and along with them there were 50 marking planner, 33 planner analyser, 69 auto blocking and 63 auto bruiting machines, as well as four Dia Scan planners.
A new landmark came when the company was selected as a DTC sightholder in 2005, and the growth story continued, scaling ever newer heights.
Further expansion of manufacturing facilities at Surat – with an additional 20,000 sq ft – took place in 2006, which led soon after to a significant technical shift – the installation of 100 high speed bruters and 25 laser bruiting and coning machines to replace over a thousand conventional maxi bruters that had been in operation till then.
A Mega Leap
By 2008, after adding more factory space of 50,000 sq.ft., Kiran started production of fancies including princess, marquise, pears, emeralds, ovals and heart shaped diamonds, and also upped its production of rounds in certified stones of larger sizes ranging from 0.50 carats to 2 carats.
Within a short while annual production of fancies touched 250,000 carats, even as work started on construction of a mega diamond polishing factory and administration centre at Surat spanning 150,000 sq.ft. It was during this period that the company achieved a century with Sarin.