The Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) celebrated its 50th anniversary in Mumbai at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The 'Mines to Market' conference was riveting with industry experts from all over the world talking about the various road blocks that are plaguing the industry and how mine companies and diamantaires can work together to make the industry more lucrative.
The session was kick-started by a presentation by an opening address by Praveenshankar Pandya, Chairman, GJEPC. He spoke about all the issues and key areas that the 2-day conference will address. He also thanked Belgium for its unconditional support to India and its contribution towards the growth of the diamond industry in the country.
His address was followed by an inspirational speech by Walter K Chidakwa, Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Zimbabwe. In an emotional address, he said, "Africa has been a producer of diamonds and other precious minerals for hundreds of years and 60 % of the world's diamond resources come from Africa. While this is critical for the economic development of Africa, it is high time that Belgium extends the same support it shows to India and that India in turn helps Africa."
Piyush Goyal, Minister for Power, Coal and Renewable Energy & Mines said that India has had a long history with diamonds, even in mythology diamonds have played an important role. He said that the industry needs to look beyond just manufacturing and concentrate on mining. "Exploration doesn't cost much. Why can't we be the leaders when it comes to producing diamonds? Developed countries like Europe and the US need to be more supportive towards developing nations. Sending a few hundred solar lamps to a poor village in Africa won't cut it," he said. He concluded saying, "We don't want to say we ran out of diamonds in the 18th century, but that in India, diamonds are forever."
Russell Mehta, Vice Chairman of GJEPC and CEO of Rosy Blue India said that diamond industry is the original Make in India industry. He said that the industry has grown from a mere 17 million in 1965 to a whopping 17 billion in 2016. He warned the industry about the volatility in the market because of the entry of synthetics. He insisted that being transparent and adopting non corrupt practices is the only means to further development.
Chaim Evan Zohar, Author, Diamond Intelligence, made a presentation on the challenges and uncertainties facing the diamond business. He said that India should take a strong stance in negotiating margins with miners, "you have enormous power, use it to get profitability back," he said.
The entry of synthetic diamonds and how it affects the natural diamond industry was a major area of concern throughout the panel discussions. Andrey Polyakov, VP, Alrosa dismissed the entire synthetic industry saying that they are no threat or match to the natural diamonds which are in fact one of the miracles of Mother Nature and they are special because of their age and history.
The final panel discussion threw light on the marketing techniques companies need to embrace for more profitability. Chaim said that the industry should look up to the marketing strategies used by the likes of Swarovski because they are clever. "If you see some of the advertising videos the synthetic diamond producers make, if we were to play that here, everyone would walk out to buy synthetics." Rajeev Mehta, CEO, Diamexon Diamonds argued saying, "I don't believe market is going to solve our profitability problems."
The panel discussion ended with a presentation by Mr. Rohan Shah on International Laws and Compliances. He spoke of why regulators are focus on the gems and the jewellery industry and the global initiatives India must adopt to target vulnerabilities.