Ashraf Motiwala, Managing Director of AS Motiwala, talks about the growing demand for jewellery during the pandemic, and building an international brand in the next few years.
Ashraf Motiwala parted ways from his family jewellery business AK Motiwala to take forward the legacy in his own way. He not only brought in progressive ideas in design but also in technology and finish to create a jewellery brand of repute in 2012.
While A.S. Motiwala caters to more opulent bridal wear, it is three-year-old baby sub-brand Faith that is helping him thrive despite the pandemic.
Could you tell us about the legacy of the Motiwala brand?
My great grandfather was a Basra pearl dealer. I have an old passport of his showing that he travelled to Persia in 1905 to buy Basra pearls. He would go to the courts of rajas and mahrajas to sell the pearls. He passed away when my grandfather Abdul Kadar Motiwala was only 7 years old. My grandfather went from living a lavish life to a life of poverty as the money depleted over the years. When he came of age, he began rebuilding the family’s jewellery business under the AK Motiwala brand name. My father joined him and later on, his brothers came on board as well. My grandfather mentored me for 10 years. I had a very special relationship with him and learnt a lot from him. His lessons of trust, honesty and buying something only when you have the money for it has helped me steer my company over the years.
How and when did you start your own store?
In the early 2000s, we were losing a lot of market share and my uncles were okay with that but it pricked me because I know how hard my grandfather worked to build the brand. He dedicated his life to the business and if I didn’t do something, the business wouldn’t sustain.
I wanted to bring progressive ideas and modern technology into the business, and aim higher. We branched out amicably. I broke away in 2008. It took four years to establish a new factory, zero in on a new location, and bring in new technological know-how. I promised my uncles that I would not compete with them. I had to carve my own niche.
I used the advantage of technology, high finished products and more than that and all my learnings working in the older company for 15 years to launch AS Motiwala’s first store in 2012.
How has the brand been impacted by the pandemic?
In the legacy of Motiwala, I have got the task of taking the brand online. We are a niche brand, a family jeweller who is driven by passion. Unlike mass market brands that are run by corporates, we are emotionally involved in the business. We have to convey all this and more through the digital medium. It is a tough task to work under pressure but the e-store will hopefully be up by July this year.
We have remerchandised a lot of our designs. Our brand Faith, which we launched in 2018, is doing even better than AS Motiwala right now.
AS Motiwala is mainly for bridal jewellery. Faith is for the modern consumer who doesn’t need an occasion to buy jewellery. We also export jewellery under Faith. The brand is still a baby, but is growing exceptionally and we want to give it more power by taking it online.
What are the current buying trends?
It is such a case study for us because demand is all over the place. Initially in the first phase, we saw brides, although they were having a smaller function, they were buying so much of jewellery.
We had another set of consumers who were affected by covid but were going ahead with marriage and wanted smaller pieces of jewellery. Faith helped us cater to this consumer base.
At the same time, we saw an epic sale. I sold a diamond at a ‘crazy’ value – something that I have never sold before in my life. I made agreement not to disclose details, but this is all I can say.
What is your outlook for the second half of 2021?
I am an optimist. I firmly believe that the best is yet to come. We have to have Faith (exactly what my brand name suggests) and hope that everything else will fall in place.
Where do you see the brand in the next 5 years?
The first lockdown changed people’s mentality. They began to see more value in jewellery that lasts a lifetime and more. The second lockdown has changed people’s mentality as well. It has given me a stronger reason to go online because I need to be an international jeweller now. There are a lot of issues that need to be ironed out like dealing with Customs, etc., but the aim is to be globally available to our customer base.
We had intended to open an international store for Faith in 2020 but it was put on the backburner because of the pandemic. I hope that Faith has a presence in at least two or three international locations in the next few years.