India Must Promote Its Superb Jewellery Craftsmanship To Become A Global Leader

Liza Foreman, an international roving freelance journalist who writes for publications such as Financial Times and Architectural Digest, spoke to several top editors and industry experts to figure out how India, a land with an exceptional historic legacy of jewellery; a country that was renowned and much-sought after for its Golconda diamonds, is no longer synonymous with luxury jewellery at the global level. India’s strength in manufacturing diamonds needs no introduction, as over 95% of the world’s diamonds pass through the hands of Indian gem cutters and polishers. However, the same cannot be said of its jewellery manufacturing sector.

How is Indian jewellery and manufacturing seen overseas? What can the sector do to improve its image? Has India managed to convey its rich craftsmanship heritage internationally? These are some of the questions that we put to international experts this month to gain some perspective.

Necklace Amrapali Jewels for Project Blossoming by Gemfields.
Ruth Faulkner

Opines Ruth Faulkner, jewellery expert and Editor of the London-based trade publication Retail Jeweller: “From a UK perspective, the most important aspects when dealing with overseas factories and manufacturers are ease of communication, speed of deliveries and quality of product. So any manufacturer that scores highly when it comes to these things will be viewed favourably. In terms of Indian manufacturers specifically, the minimum order quantities that many require are prohibitively high for a lot of UK retailers and suppliers, so addressing minimum order quantities would definitely benefit Indian companies when it comes to strengthening its image abroad.”

Could case studies and better communication lead to more success stories in this area?

“I have heard stories of certain companies experiencing real breakdowns of communication with Indian manufacturers, meaning the products received are not what they had hoped for,” says Faulkner. “So, keeping close and open lines of communication with their customers, regardless of where they are located, and working closely with them at all stages of the process to ensure the finished products meet the brief exactly is important. That said, I have heard countless stories of brands using Indian manufacturers with real success. Perhaps using some of those brands as case studies might help to strengthen the image of Indian manufacturing abroad?”

In Faulkner’s experience, India is respected for its  jewellery know-how. But are international brands hesitant to mention India as the ‘country of origin’ on the label?

“Not especially,” she says. “Generally speaking, brands and suppliers are more likely to mention India as the country of origin than, say, China. I think this is because India is known as a global centre for gem-cutting, and this gives people the impression that Indian manufacturers are jewellery experts.”

Are there serious drawbacks, real or perceived, in India’s manufacturing quality?

“I think it is about finding the right manufacturer for your business,” says Faulkner. “Most of the success stories I have heard, when it comes to jewellery brands manufacturing in India, are because the brand in question has taken time to explore their options and find the right partner to work with.”

Could India do more to convey its rich jewellery heritage overseas?

“To a certain extent, I think it is well known by those working in the jewellery trade, as they are aware of India’s jewellery heritage, but I am not sure this extends to those outside of the trade and, indeed, to end consumers,” says Faulkner. “Brands and retailers can help, in this regard, by helping to tell their customers where their jewellery comes from and why it is made there. This is a great example from SVP Jewellery, telling the story of where the jewellery is manufactured.”

What should India do to strengthen its image?

“Indian manufacturers could definitely do more to promote themselves as jewellery experts, and this could be done via a combination of self-promotion and more advertising within the trade in the markets they are looking to tap into, as well as working with their existing customers (such as the above example with SVP) and using them to help tell their story,” she adds.

David Brough

Says David Brough, Editor and Co-Founder of the digital magazine Jewellery Outlook:

“A key focus of India’s marketing push, in my view, should be to highlight the excellence of Indian craftsmanship and state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities.” He adds: “There could be a renewed effort to strengthen ‘Made in India’ branding, and a mobilisation of the most cutting-edge digital technologies and social media marketing tools to boost sales of Indian products to overseas markets.”

Irina Slesareva

From Russia, editor and jewellery expert Irina Slesareva, Chief Editor, Jewelry Report, adds:

“India should Implement a global promotion strategy to improve its image overseas. Jewellery design from India is unique, a kaleidoscope of precious and semi-precious stones and special aesthetics.”

Are manufacturers too focused on the domestic market?

“The Indian jewellery industry has the capacity to enter foreign markets and compete successfully,” she says. “India has a well-equipped and developed cutting industry. The peculiarity is that jewellery products are focused on the domestic market, where bulky, multi-layered items with a lot of large stones and ethnic design are in demand. That’s very beautiful. I admire the unique shapes and palettes of colored stones in Indian jewellery. They have a special aesthetic.

“Of course, India also has companies targeting foreign markets offering very different designs, including in the luxury segment. We know them well, Viren Bhagat, for example. Strengthening the image abroad could be done through a global promotion strategy under the conditional brand ‘Made in India’. Such a strategy can include many special projects — exhibition, business, educational.”

Is it sometimes Indian brands that are reluctant to mention India as the country of origin overseas?

“Some international brands are backed by manufacturers or owners from India,” she says. “It is possible that they are the ones who do not want to mention India as the country of origin of their jewellery. Some even specifically maintain offices in European capitals to position themselves as European brands. Perhaps this should be taken as an element of marketing strategies?”

Are there serious drawbacks, real or perceived, in India’s manufacturing quality?

“None of the familiar jewellers who work there could answer my question about the current quality standards for the production of jewellery in India,” she says. “As noted by buyers from Russia who buy jewellery from manufacturers from India, they need to carefully and personally control the production process, right up to the moment the goods are sent. Ideally, when in India they have their own representative who performs these tasks. Samples at exhibitions sometimes differ from what comes in batch orders.”

Indian companies working overseas are keenly observing and experiencing first-hand some of these points, through doing business internationally.

Tarang Arora, CEO of Amrapali, Jaipur, opines: “Indian jewellery is an epitome of creativity, art and depiction of tradition. From every corner of India, we can see the culture expressed in the form of jewellery, we can see the rich history in every single piece. Worldwide, India is known for its artisanship, and so every stone tells its own story. To occupy an even more prominent place in the world of jewellery around the world, we need to stick to our roots with a hint of modernization.”

Are international brands hesitant to mention India as ‘country of origin’ on the label?

“It might be the case in other sectors, but in gems and jewellery we hold a strong position,” says Arora. “We are among the top exporters because of our skilled craftsmanship, and our profound designs. People now focus on ingenuity; they want raw, unfiltered things more now, instead of feigned ones. Indian jewellery is a consolidation of contemporary and heritage in a winsome manner.”

Are there serious drawbacks, real or perceived, in India’s manufacturing quality?

“It’s wrong to pigeonhole the entire industry when talking about quality,” he adds. “The Indian jewellery industry is oscillating between traditional and contemporary design  – equipoising it gracefully keeping quality as a pivotal pillar, along with design.”

Has India failed to convey its rich jewellery heritage to the West?

“India is known globally for gems, jewellery, culture and its rich heritage,” says Arora. “People are now fascinated with Indian heritage;  be it yoga or Vedas and likewise jewellery is no anomaly.”

What should India do to strengthen its image?

“Strengthening its quality pillar and securing its heritage by guarding its rich culture so that it never becomes obscure among upcoming generations,” he adds. “Added to this, emerging and existing global market demand should be surveyed periodically in order to invigorate its current image.”

Concludes the London-based American luxury costume jeweller, Vicki Sarge, who runs a Notting Hill boutique of the same name: “I have only found superb craftsmen in India in my experience. I think manufacturing from India is now well-respected.”

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