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How KGK Group has Embraced Digitization Prudently to Face Covid-led Challenges
Sanjay Kothari, Vice Chairman-KGK Group, talks about do's and don'ts of digitization, importance of karigari, how KGK is beating all odds amidst this pandemic and more
By: Diamond World News Service
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Jul 15 2021 12:02PM
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Reference: 25713  

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Sanjay Kothari, Vice Chairman-KGK Group
Sanjay Kothari, Vice Chairman-KGK Group

 

The growth in export of the Indian gem and jewellery industry is due to a combination of many dynamics: policy measures implemented by the government; funds injected by central banks for sufficient liquidity into the system; support of the mining companies to midstream segment and competent manufacturing/ making charges.

 

 

What according to you are the ways in which jewellery manufacturing businesses can adapt to the digital world?

Digitalization has been the trend in almost all sectors. But gems and jewellery industry, was by and large running offline, until it was injured by COVID 19 crisis that threw industries out of balance and projected one of the worst hit downturns in the history of mankind. In light of global pandemic, the gems & jewellery segment which contributes 7% to the country's GDP witnessed a significant change in the business outlook. Amidst all the uncertainties, the industry started seeing digitalization as a way to navigate.

It has started valuing technologically advanced infrastructure. And this applies not only to ecommerce and social media presence but it also started using technological advancements and artificial intelligence for manufacturing processes.

The ability to customize and personalize products with 3D design tools is going to be path breaking. 3D Printing will also permit direct metal printing, eliminating the need for moulds and other machinery. With digitally driven tools such as electroforming the emergence of affordable, light-weight jewellery have become possible. In addition, with technology like Blockchain, transparency and trust will no longer be a concern. Gemstones and precious metals will be traceable back to their sources, and thereby the industry will only push for ethical practices.

What are the major dos and don’ts which a manufacturer needs to watch out for when they are going digital?

 

In the wake of the global pandemic, most businesses reached a stage of abrupt halt where the daily operations were severely compromised. Like other industries, the gems and jewellery sector is no exception as it witnessed a paradigm shift towards digitization both internally and externally.

While it was imperative for gems and jewellery industry to go digital to grab stability, it is equally essential for the adaptation to be prudent. Digitization in bits and bobs is not appreciated; instead the entire process from start to end should be integrated for the purpose. Also, the actual craftsmanship can’t be abandoned but the flow; production timeline, inventory management etc are digitized to facilitate fast and smooth operations. Approximately a jewellery manufacturing process has about 15 stages and ones these stages are digitally integrated, the results cannot step away from more efficiency and greater quality without losing any bit of aesthetics.

Also, while creating a masterpiece, we as manufacturers try to keep a balance between up-to-date technology and traditional handwork. This poise is really significant, where technology helps saving a lot of time and cost, our artisans with their experience add a lot of flawless authenticity to the designs.

Machines replaced human hands in the manufacturing of gold jewellery a few decades back. The need, back then, was to cut costs and to save time. Now when we have achieved the primary goal, we need to make sure that we keep alive the roots that were established eons ago, not letting the present and future technology led generations devoid of the extraordinary heritage.

How do you as a brand blend human and tech elements – in karigari and machine-made designs?

Might sound singular but we really do blend up-to-date technology and traditional artistry to create exceptional pieces. Technology definitely adds a lot of value but can never beat the know-how and acquaintance that a great craftsman can offer, therefore KGK believes in embracing collective culture to offer its patrons with the best of both.

Technology has revolutionized the design and manufacturing process in every aspect and has changed the ways in which we produce. It has also allowed us to offer a range of new services to our customers which are not only versatile but also cost effective, helping us to expand our customer base. On one hand we create handcrafted exquisite pieces and on the other hand we also produce the very popular machine-made jewels like Sintering Rings and Flexible Bands to name a few.

Gems and jewellery exports in India are doing very well right now. What is driving this demand?

The quality of the gems and jewellery we manufacture in India is remarkable; India has done wonders with respect to diamond polishing and it enjoys a global recognition. Being the world’s largest manufacturing sector for cut and polished diamonds, India contributes nearly 60% to the world’s supply in terms of value and 80% in terms of volume.

The growth in export of the Indian gem and jewellery industry is due to a combination of many dynamics: policy measures implemented by the government; funds injected by central banks for sufficient liquidity into the system; support of the mining companies to midstream segment and competent manufacturing/ making charges.

These factors put together have established invincible international repute for Gems and Jewellery industry of India.

The ability to customize and personalize products with 3D design tools is going to be path breaking. 3D Printing will also permit direct metal printing, eliminating the need for moulds and other machinery. With digitally driven tools such as electroforming the emergence of affordable, light-weight jewellery have become possible. In addition, with technology like Blockchain, transparency and trust will no longer be a concern. Gemstones and precious metals will be traceable back to their sources, and thereby the industry will only push for ethical practices.

 

The trade is now accustomed to doing business online, considering the absence of physical shows. Do you think online mode of business will be the new normal?

The first wave has given the entire jewellery industry scope of valuing technologically advanced infrastructure. We learnt a new way to do business and the learning process was quite overwhelming.

A welcome preparatory shift in light of 2020’s pandemic has been an introduction of a Zoom-era, industry has done great business online, seen an increase of 14% in new online buyers from USA and around 17% from China. The numbers have been promising, but this is an industry of high value, so online shows right now only seem to be a make-shift move. Once pandemic gets better, we might get back to physical shows. When a customer is shelling a substantial amount, he / she wants to see the finished product physically and this impression is too deep to witness a change in coming few years. Though a change we foresee is that there will always be an online version of a physical show, guiding us to further expand our audience.


How are you maneuvering through the challenges the second wave has posed?

The jewellery industry that had only taken baby steps into the digital realm before the pandemic faced a more substantial scope for digital advancement in both e-com and manufacturing processes.

Where first wave created a path for the industry towards integrated digitalization, 2nd wave has inspired us to move confidently on that path.At KGK, we have successfully created a platform where we showcase our products and reach to potential geographies. KGK collaborated with established online platforms like Alibaba, JD Central, 1st Dibs, Buzz Bees, Taobao, Live.com, James Allen, etc. to live up to its promise of providing high quality and value to its customers and also to enhance its online sales across the board for both B2B and B2C models. In-house online trading platform KGK.CC is a value add to explore the market in Hong Kong and China. We are also positively using social media to reach out to our clients along with collaborating on design and production over Google meets and zoom calls and passing on our brand message via Instagram.

The second wave-driven lockdown did have a direct and hard-hitting impact, but jewellery consumptions have climbed uphill digitally. Customers are seeking tailored and utility-driven communication touch points in the absence of outlets or reduced walk-in opportunities.We intend to emerge from this crisis with new ways of doing things.

What are the lessons you have learnt in running a global business amidst pandemic and its comeback in phases in different countries?

Luxury brands were indeed known for preserving their status symbol by burning the surplus inventory rather than sully the brand name by announcing a sale. We believe that the luxury brands are undergoing a fundamental learning as the global pandemic has driven the businesses to reevaluate their priorities and consider margin value over brand preservation. 

As the digital world has taken a lead in the recent past, we witness a sudden shift where customers are open to spending more time with their digital purchases. Customers have learnt to use the digital mediums judiciously to their advantage and are more inclined to research about their product prior to purchase from the offline store or the e-commerce platform. At KGK, digitization is gaining a steady momentum as we are working proactively towards increasing resilience and safeguarding productivity with a holistic approach.

Understanding the broader scope of digitalization especially when different countries are working on different timelines and travelling is no more at ease, we want to focus on digitalization and intend to do swing 15-20% of the business digitally on immediate basis so the businesses can comfortably diversify and widen their footprints when the digital world significantly takes over. In fact, 15-20% of the sales should occur through digital mediums, digital auctions, live streaming on both B2B and B2C platforms.

A welcome preparatory shift in light of 2020’s pandemic has been an introduction of a Zoom-era, industry has done great business online, seen an increase of 14% in new online buyers from USA and around 17% from China. The numbers have been promising, but this is an industry of high value, so online shows right now only seem to be a make-shift move. Once pandemic gets better, we might get back to physical shows. When a customer is shelling a substantial amount, he / she wants to see the finished product physically and this impression is too deep to witness a change in coming few years. Though a change we foresee is that there will always be an online version of a physical show, guiding us to further expand our audience.

 

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