Success personified

While the world knows him as a business tycoon and the face of Rosy Blue, he says he is still the same old boy from Palanpuri, who was handheld into the business by his father and brother and who learn the trade from people, situations and experiences. Know more of him as you read…
Success personified

Life seems to have come full circle for Dilip Mehta, Chief Executive Officer, Rosy Blue. A look at the past speaks about his debut in the industry, when he chose to follow family values of unity, bonding and community and dropped out of college to accompany his friends. No matter, how significant or trivial the decision was, the important thing is that it changed the course of his life and this college drop-out from a close-knit humble Gujarati family, went on to establish a diamond empire with offices in 15 countries in four continents and business connections all around the globe.

Mehta is a man, who loves to sort through diamonds, listen to inspiring stories, has firm belief in family values and takes time out for philanthropy. In appreciation of his work, in 2006, Mehta was bestowed with the Baronship by His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium. Ask him, what more he wants from life, and he says with a smile, “Just more time to spend with family.”

Mehta was one of five Palanpuri boys in Bhavan’s College in Mumbai in the mid-1960s. Unlike his friends, he worked hard and received good grades, to be in the top 10 per cent of the class. However, when nemesis caught up and they were asked to leave the college, during the second quarterly examination, Mehta’s sense of loyalty and bonding with friends and community, compelled him to drop out of college, which changed the course of his life.

Mehta was the youngest in the family of modest means. His parents were hard working people, who worked long hours and ran their life on tight budgets. Yet, spared no efforts to help look after the wider circles of greater family and even supported the community. “Family bonding was always their core vision,” reminisces Mehta. So, even though his family was shocked at Mehta’s decision to drop out of college, they rallied around and took a practical view. The entire family was involved with diamond manufacturing. His eldest brother, Arun Kumar had recently started a small business of diamond trading from a humble office and workshop at the time, and Mehta was expected to join the business.

Looking back, the tycoon says, “It is good to be the youngest in the family. I grew up with my siblings taking care of me. I received great counseling and they tolerated my mistakes. I have been blessed with great brothers and a sister.”
Within a month of leaving college, Mehta was sent to Surat, which was then emerging as a growth centre for diamond cutting. So, without any formal training, he started to work in diamond manufacturing in 1965. The next five were the foundation years, as he learned about the intricacies of diamond cleaving and cutting. From other cleavers and polishers, Mehta learned rough assortment and preparation in the dry, dusty city of Surat.

“From my days in Surat (1965-1970), I learned just about everything that was needed to manufacture. At that time there was no formal training available, like we have today including GIA, HRD and other grading schools. My parents and brothers are my teachers,” Mehta says.

His father taught him about polished assortments, while his second brother, Harshadbhai Mehta taught him diamond manufacturing systematically. He learnt of sales and trading techniques from his eldest brother Arunbhai Mehta. “I was lucky be born in a family that taught me the important values of respect, self-reliance and equality with the most important lesson being on the benefits of unity,” Mehta says.

These were the lessons that helped Mehta when he moved to Antwerp in 1973. His father and uncle had set up shop in this ancient diamond trading city. Being among the first Indians to start business there, they would initially buy low quality roughs, which were then sent to India for cutting and polishing. “Though I was taught by my elders, they also allowed me to learn by myself and build confidence. My father and brother wanted me to come to Antwerp,” Mehta recalls.

In the very first month of settling in Antwerp, Mehta had an unpleasant experience. Usually, brokers brought in the goods from owners to show to clients on the trading floor of the Diamant Kring. An offer was made in closed envelopes. The broker would then either negotiate the offer with the owner or come back with a counter offer or he would settle the deal with a ‘Mazal’.

In June 1973, Mehta offered a parcel to a broker who gave “Mazal” on the first offer. “The broker delivered the parcel to the office, where we were clients. I discovered then that the parcel I had bought was too expensive. I was puzzled because I had analysed the parcel properly. I was much shaken with the purchase and felt upset with myself.

Later, while writing the accounts at home, a relative from Arunbhai visited me and saw me looking unhappy. When he heard my story, he said he had a similar experience with the same broker. I was instantly relieved as I was clearly cheated!”

This experience helped build Mehta’s confidence in his own judgement. “We all need our small successes and responsibilities for personal growth,” he opines.

After completing his training in manufacturing, he learnt about the diamond trade. This was a time when grading reports were rarely used. There were not too many standards and business was all about personal beliefs. Certain incidents and people left an indelible mark on Mehta, shaping his belief system, besides teaching him vital aspects about the trade, and the business.

“In my early days in Antwerp, I was good friends with Miki Komlosi, a hard working migrant from Romania. He was a diamond broker and always had said a pithy line. ‘Buy like a beggar and sell like a king.’ This helped me and became my reality for running our business. The other way round of buying like king would certainly make you a beggar,” recalls Mehta.

Although times have changed, and standardisation provides more objectiveness, Mehta believes in fairness. Looking back he is happy that his company has always been fair in its dealings and expects the same from its business partners. “Once when Arunbhai was away, I went to show our goods to a person called Jacques Roisen of Michael Ferman and Roisen Inc. The company is called Kwiat now. He offered me a polished parcel. I wasn’t sure what to do. Reading my face, Jacques said he would not keep his offer if I had to ask my brother. He asked me to take the decision.”

Mehta said “Mazal” to the goods and to a beautiful relationship. “He inspired me to take decisions. I am very grateful to him. He was a noble person.” His clients also taught him many things, one being honesty. “Business in Antwerp was mostly done in cash. Once reconciling accounts with a client, I had mistakenly credited an extra US $10,000 into their account. He pointed out the mistake saying he had not paid the money. This honest client soon became a relative and I still remind him of this incident.”

The family’s diamond business prospered. Since establishing Rosy Blue NV as the first overseas office of B Arunkumar, now Rosy Blue, India, Mehta expanded the family’s presence to other countries. Following the high inflationary years of the 1970s, old established companies in Israel and Antwerp went out of business. Mehta used this opportunity to build the business internationally. “We were the first, so-called Indian company, to venture into manufacturing outside of India,” he says. Since then, there has been no turning back. Today Rosy Blue has sales, manufacturing and financing offices in 15 countries across four continents.

Mehta is a globe trotter and a people’s person. “I enjoy meeting interesting people around the world. I like to listen, good stories inspire my thoughts.” His natural interest in people helped him to build relationships with producers, retailers, and suppliers. He also learnt from them, some vital aspect about how to do business.

“In 1986, we partnered in Israel with Salim Ajami who used to live in Antwerp. He was one of the sharpest traders and had clarity and vision. After one year of business, he said, the way we were structured, a conflict of interest was inevitable, and the transfer price would always be arbitrary. He however trained our partners in Israel, so they could work independently. We parted as friends. I learnt that one needs to anticipate problems and be frank about resolving the situation. Goodwill and emotions will not take you far.”

Despite all these achievements, Mehta is typically simplistic about his own achievements and understates his own dedication. He still enjoys sorting and looking at rough diamonds. “I can keep looking at the parcels of rough endlessly and find something new in it all the time,” he says. Mehta is constantly involved in business. “One cannot be a part time diamantaire. The diamond business needs constant involvement of its owners and cannot run on autopilot. One cannot take the eye off the ball. It needs your physical, mental and passionate involvement continuously,” he states.

While Mehta believes that diversity brings progress, he has also worked ceaselessly to promote his own family values of unity among the various communities in the global diamond industry. He is pleased that the younger generation is buying into the philosophy of united approach to prosperity and responsible citizenship.

Besides being the Officer of the Crown Order of the Kingdom of Belgium, Mehta also holds various eminent positions. He is a member of the Gemological Institute of America, Board of Governors, Member of the Board of Directors of Vereniging van Handelaars in Ruwe Diamant, Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices Member of Board of Directors, Director of Dubai diamond exchange, Independent Non-Executive Director, Member of Audit Committee and Member of Remuneration Committee, Vaarad Ventures Limited.

“I have always preferred to be an active member of society and therefore I give time to initiatives I believe in,” he states.

Mehta believes it is important to share the business successes by giving back to the community. “We understand the value of money. Over the past 45 years, our family has evolved from a humble beginning to a business alliance with over 5,000 employees. As our business prospered, we shared our success by giving back to our community, our town, our country and the world.”

Each contribution is considered thoroughly to ensure that it serves the underprivileged and socially deprived groups in society. The family also makes significant anonymous donations through private channels. “We are committed to empower people to become self-reliant through education and training. Children are our priority,” Mehta says.

“My wife has always been my greatest support in allowing me to pursue my goals. But in the quest of driving a business, you never know when your business starts driving you. I have always tried to balance the business and family life. However one pays the price in one way or another. It is challenging to combine both,” he signs off.

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