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In conversation with Nishit Parikh
"My Role is to promote Antwerp, and i don't care about people's origin. What matters to me, if i work with people, is that they add their own contribution so that all together we can make Antwerp proud.
By: Diamond World News Service
Aug 21 2010 5:45PM
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Nishit Parikh
Nishit Parikh
How would you sum up the significance of the recently concluded elections of the AWDC? We have seen yourself being elected as the first Indian President as also all six directly elected members are Indians. Would you say that this is historic, or particularly significant?

It’s not only a great honour for me, but more importantly, it’s an even greater honour for the Indian community here in Antwerp. They see it as a recognition of the importance and strong position of the Indian community in the Antwerp diamond industry. Moreover, it confirms the excellent relationships between Antwerp and India. Antwerp is India’s number one supplier of rough and I firmly believe that will continue. My role is to promote Antwerp, and I don’t care about people’s origin. What matters to me, if I work with people, is that they add their own contribution so that all together we can make Antwerp proud.

By all means Antwerp is still the largest trading centre. There’s no community that’s not represented in Antwerp, and that’s a major asset. Where else would the Jewish people, the Christians, the Jain, the Hindu, the Muslims feel comfortable to work together? In the short term, our focus will be to make sure as much rough and polished trading as possible will remain and come back to Antwerp. It’s a very convenient place to work, strategically unbeatably placed, both geographically and time zone wise.

Do you have a any particular agenda for the next two years? Would you like to implement any special plans and programmes?

I see a great opportunity as president of AWDC, to help the Antwerp diamond sector to move forward in a transparent and efficient way. Antwerp is the most important world diamond centre, and losing market share is simply no option. We should be on top of the new technological developments, to give Antwerp the right tools to broaden its scope: Antwerp as leading centre in technological support of the diamond manufacturing industry; Antwerp as knowledge centre; Antwerp as polished trading centre for polished diamonds; Antwerp as rough diamond trading centre.

In recent years there have been both security issues as well as shifts in the approach of the authorities towards the industry. Is there a wish list on this for the government?

The diamond industry, as any other industry with high value assets (whether diamonds, jewellery or cash) is an attractive target for organized, criminal actions. Security is of vital importance to the entire diamond community.

AWDC has already taken several measures to enhance security in the Antwerp diamond district, in cooperation with the police forces. People have been informed and have been receiving professional advice by the police on how to protect themselves and their families, their businesses, their private homes.

Furthermore, the Antwerp diamond district is already extremely well protected and monitored, day and night. This is perhaps the reason why we see a shift towards private homes.

Security is a work in progress, and we will continuously strive to better inform and raise awareness of our diamantaires, on how to protect themselves. The Belgian police forces have very positive experience with these issues, (e.g. in the banking sector): by educating possible targets, the incidence of. tiger kidnappings and other organized crimes has substantially decreased.

The Belgian government is aware of the importance of the Antwerp diamond sector for Belgium, as it represents 5% of the national export product. It has put the security issue of the diamond sector on its priority list. The minister of Internal Affairs has recently invited the entire Antwerp diamond sector, and has expressed its commitment to take special measures to increase the security in the diamond sector. One of these is the use of the national, dedicated centre for reporting incidents of tiger kidnapping, which was already in place for the bank sector and is now also available for the diamond sector. Furthermore, a task force is now in place with the purpose of dealing with security issues on a day-to-day basis.

What is your assessment of the future role of the Antwerp centre? Do you foresee some diminishing of its role with activity moving to other centres?

If we look at Antwerp today, the main part of our business lies in the fact that we are the premier trading centre of the world. Obviously, my main concern is to keep and expand the rough goods coming in to Antwerp. But I believe the future of Antwerp isn’t limited to being the world’s leading trade centre only. Technological innovation is high on my agenda for Antwerp. We have to make sure we keep investing in technology and research. I believe there is a scope to bring manufacturing back to Antwerp. We can rely on hundreds of years worth of experience in this business, which is proven by the fact that almost every large or exceptional stone ends up in Antwerp. We have the skills and the know-how and nowadays manufacturing is not merely a matter of low labour cost anymore. The necessary technological progress in the diamond business is a fact. Antwerp has to take full advantage of the fact that we possess an important asset over other centres: we have a vast knowledge base that, combined with the right technology, can rekindle our strengths as a manufacturing hub, not just for rare and exceptional stones. From my own personal experience I think you need to have a good balance between trade and manufacturing if you want to be successful.

What is your overall assessment of the diamond industry post the 2008 crisis? To what extent has recovery taken place?

The Belgian diamond industry showed in June that it is on track to mark a strong year in 2010 with sharp rises in rough and polished diamond exports in both financial and volume terms.

For the first six months of this year, rough exports soared 78.9 per cent to 69.9 million carats worth $5.68 billion, a jump of 87.8 per cent. In the first half of 2010, rough diamond imports rose sharply – up 57.4 per cent on the same period of 2009 to 60.1 million carats worth $4.9 billion, a rise of 84.8 per cent.

Polished diamond exports climbed 2.5 per cent from the same period of 2009 to 3.63 million carats, there was a 32.2 percent rise in value terms to $5.35 billion. For the January-June period, polished diamond imports increased 2.7 per cent from a year earlier to 3.87 million carats worth $5.04 billion, a rise of 30.8 per cent.

From a sales point of view, we have recovered most of our strength.

What can be done to completely restore the health of the industry?

Everything looks good, but the world market is still fragile. A new economic downturn would somewhere could affect the diamond industry, alongside other industries. The Antwerp diamond companies are doing business again, and has proven to be stable and solid. Nevertheless, financial stability is of utmost importance, and the market must be very careful not to overheat.

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