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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.

Monthly production reaches about 25,000 carats, mostly ranging from 0.30 to 3.00 cts and above, including stones as large as 20 cts, in D to Z colours and almost all clarities and shapes. There is an in-house detailed grading system that addresses 13 parameters, resulting in logical and precise pricing. A majority of the stock is GIA certified in addition to the in-house grading reports.

SRK was one of the early companies to establish a web presence which swiftly developed into an e-commerce platform as well. Then in 2010, it was the first diamond manufacturing company to launch a mobile website and a WAP page for B2B diamond trading. Called ‘SRK Lite’, it was the lighter and faster version of the normal website, especially engineered for mobiles and other hand held devices. The operations are backed up by a team of twelve software programmers, dedicated servers and an R & D department. Today, with the site being directly linked to the factory and updated in real time, about 40 per cent of sales takes place through online channels.

Shreyans Dholakia, Director-Information & Technology, says, “SRK Lite has provided clients enhanced access to our trading platform and resources. A clearer structure, simplified navigation, improved search functions and use of Cloud Computing technology have helped us to make it even easier than before for clients to find a diamond. It helps them to become more efficient in their diamond sourcing.” He adds that the company’s vision is to ensure that in the near future, the customer does not have to physically go to the manufacturing or trading centre to buy a diamond.

With affiliates spread across USA, Belgium, Israel, China and Hong Kong, The Jewelry Co. (TJC), its jewellery manufacturing arm at SEEPZ, Mumbai catering to the international markets and Jewel Goldi at MIDC, Mumbai catering to burgeoning Indian domestic market, the group has a range of customers ranging from diamond wholesalers, jewellery manufacturers and retail traders, to chain stores and small independent stores, most of whom have a relationship with the company that spans many years.

At the other end of the spectrum is the high standard of its HR practice which has created a dedicated and committed workforce. SRK was ranked 14th in India amongst top 25 companies for ‘HR Best Practices’ in a report prepared by SAIL, India’s leading manufacturer of steel and Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). The company was one of the few in Surat which retained its entire workforce throughout the darkest days of the global recession.

Govindbhai avers that technology and business acumen have helped, but it is integrity, hard work and honesty that are at the core of his success story. “Over the years we have grown from strength to strength and I attribute this prosperity to positive thinking, our hundred present commitment to product management, coupled with technology that is one step ahead of the curve and a highly motivated team of artisans.”

The Company that Cares

SRK runs a wide range of CSR projects in the spheres of education, health and rehabilitation.

Many companies in the industry have impressive CSR programmes, but it is the personal touch that makes SRK’s projects different. Most mornings on his way to work, Govindbhai, the patriarch of the group, stops over at the V.N. Godhani Girls School run by a family trust. He meets those who have special requests listening patiently to widows, sick and disabled people, students, in short, anyone who has a problem. Students in need are asked to learn a passage from their religious texts, and funds are disbursed in accordance with the number of passages learnt. The idea is not to spread theology, but to judge just how serious they are in their request for aid.

In addition to these daily stints, every Sunday is also dedicated to the community projects which span an impressive range of schemes.

Education
The flagship project of the group’s CSR is the V.N.Godhani Girls School at Surat set up in memory of founding partner, the Late Virjibhai Godhani. Established in 1988, it focuses on the girl child, provides quality education and freeships to children from economically challenged backgrounds. In other parts of the state, the company also runs high schools, computer institutes, hostels for the physically impaired and reading halls. Annual scholarships are awarded to 700 students from institutes in Gujarat.

Health
On the campus of the V.N. Godhani School, the company runs the Matrushri Nanduba Popatbhai Medical Centre which has more than 40 visiting doctors and offers physiotherapy, X-ray, sonography, pathology and laboratory services at subsidised rates. A similar centre is run at Dudhala, Lathi. Besides it has funded special wings and wards in different hospitals.

SRK group also runs a 300-bed, fully-equipped hospital with all the latest amenities, more than 100 specialist doctors, and a full complement of staff, and conducts medical camps in different parts of the state, particularly the backward areas.

Others

SRK was at the forefront of rehabilitation work after the Kutch earthquake of 2001 and the Surat floods of 1994, 98, 2002 and 2006. It provided aid to widows of the Kargiul war heroes.

Rural areas have benefited from the canal built by SRK in Dudhala, Saurashtra and 45 check dams along the route. The company also extends support to tree planting drives and cleanliness movements.

All round excellence is promoted through the ‘Matrushri Santokbaa Manav Ratna Award.’ The Ramkrishna Hall donated to the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the SRK Sports Complex and a public park (Dholakia Garden) are just a few of the other community development programmes SRK has implemented.

SRK also runs a philanthropy centre personally chaired by Govind Dholakia, where a committee of highly dedicated team members helps identify needy persons and dispense financial aid.

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