Those who resist change, perish. Businesses that will embrace technological changes on a war footing will be the ones who will thrive and survive and get the first-mover advantage. Ever since the lockdown was imposed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, consumers and businesses went into isolation for some months. Consumers were forced to change their mode of shopping at the speed of sound! The invisible and threatening virus has forced Indian retail jewelry businesses to understand the consumer psychographics and adapt and implement digital tools to ensure seamless and easy ways of online shopping. As the restrictions have begun to lift in several parts of the country, we spoke to some top retail houses, who have accelerated technological transformation and are setting examples of how businesses should be conducted in the months to come.
Ajoy Chawla, CEO of the Jewellery Division at Titan Co. Ltd.
The Titan jewellery division has 475 stores across the country — 340 stores for Tanishq, 93 for CaratLane, and 42 stores between Mia and Zoya. To restart operations, the company made a detailed blueprint to keep the safety checks and balances in place beginning April.
A strong safety protocol had to be put in place to ensure that we implemented the best practices not just at the retail level but also at our factories, and for our 80-90 vendors across the industry who operated from homes or units. Our aim was to protect people. We put together a ‘Gold Standard’ in safety and our objective was to be the safest stores across several towns – for our customers and employees.
But once the rules were set, we had to make sure that we deployed it accurately and it was important that the 20,000 people who work in our ecosystem, including karigars, store staff and vendors, were educated about the protocols through online training or tutorial videos in regional languages. Before reopening our stores, they were deep-cleansed and sanitised, and between May and June, most stores opened up gradually depending on the containment- free zones.
Sales staff teams were grouped separately, so that if a member in Team A got Covid, the entire team would be quarantined and Team B would take over. We did have three cases of Covid among our staff, but luckily all are fine now. Our entire field force of about 100 area business managers, who doubled up as safety ‘inspectors’, also audited the stores to ensure 100% compliance before giving a formal go-ahead to open them. A safety pledge is taken daily by all staff across our stores.
The pandemic can take months before we find a cure for it – so compliance and processes are critical, as is educating the staff. Apart from providing oximeters, UV boxes to sanitise paraphernalia, ultrasonic jewellery cleaning machines, and cashless transactions, though not mandatory, we are tracking every employee and customer’s health parameters. This makes buyers feel completely safe in our stores. Fortunately, we have been working on our digital journey since the last few years, and the process has now been accelerated. We have invested in many areas like website, analytics, and a CRM tool. We also have a common loyalty programme across jewellery, watches, and eyewear with 18 million active customers with whom we stay in touch.
Titan has invested Rs.100 crore in IT over a period of three years — but we won’t be able to gauge how much has been allocated to the jewellery division. Our digital teams are common to the entire company, and we have an analytics team, central call centre and customer care team. We have introduced a lot of remote selling opportunities for the customers. Video calls that last an hour or so to help the customer to shortlist the pieces, which may then be magnified for better viewing. We have a virtual try-on facility as well. The Endless Aisle is an IT tool that displays all the inventory of our stores across the country — for instance, it enables a customer who walks into a physical store in South India, to seek options from a store in the North, and perhaps select a piece from there. The shortlisted piece is then sent to the customer. Shortly, we will be launching a new app called Golden Harvest.
The real opportunity, as we see, lies in offline and online collaboration for a joint closure. Online selling for CaratLane and Tanishq was a small fraction of the total business, but that has now quadrupled. Also, typical ticket sizes that sold earlier were around Rs.17,000, but now pieces tagged at Rs.35,000 are also doing well.
Dr. C. Vinod Hayagriv, Managing Director & Director, C. Krishniah Chetty Group Of Jewellers, Bengaluru
We adopted high hygiene methods, and moved on to centralised online booking of appointments online on our website. The appointment schedule is available across our showrooms, so that customers can have the confidence to come over at a specific time when there is no one around.
We also have begun private sales, which means our staff takes utmost safety precautions and visit clients’ homes. They carry ultraviolet and ultrasonic equipment as well so that once it is touched by a client, the jewellery is immediately sanitised with the help of these gadgets.
This same jewellery sanitisation procedure is adopted as well at every showroom of ours between the visits of two customers.
CKC Live is an elaborate audiovisual system – consisting of a Zoom or Skype conference equipped with two or three cameras. Two of our sales staff and a designer attend the call with a customer. The entire showroom inventory is available for viewing, if the customer so desires. The session lasts an hour or two.
And customers can engage in jewellery buying from their homes – it’s like a jewellery store “coming home” virtually. Once the selections are done, deliveries happen with our logistics partners out of Bangalore.
At our stores, high standards of hygiene are implemented, and we have a well-trained hospitality staff. We offer age-old, herbs-and-spices-laden health drinks (kadhas) which boost immunity and hygienically prepared light snacks.
We also have introduced Diamond Eye, to connect consumers and staff across six showrooms in Bangalore. Customers can interact with staff across various stores through this device, a little robot on wheels which navigates through different stores, who goes about showcasing inventory on a desktop or an iPad.
An in-house astrologer offers video consultations for customers who want to buy particular gemstones.
Vaibhav Saraf, Director, Aisshpra Gems and Jewels, Gorakhpur
Maintaining the staff limit per week, keeping medical records of the employees, who are reporting to work, avoiding the use of lifts to maintain social distancing, and putting a stop to all work-related travel — these are some of the strict protocols that we have put in place.
Our staff has been extensively trained to follow safety measures through specially made presentations. Masks, gloves and sanitisers are provided on a daily basis to each of our employees. Work areas are sanitised/fumigated at regular intervals. Daily temperature recording and sick leaves are given if required. All the jewellery is sanitised with UV sanitisers after each trial by customers across all our eight operational stores in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Exclusively Yours is an appointment-only service that our brand is providing to their premium clientele, where the customer can experience the creations from their homes through virtual technology. The Exclusively Yours Service integrates MirAR, an augmented reality app where the customer can also experience unlimited designs on the iPad.