Ace silver jewellery designer Sangeeta Boochra talks about the growing demand for silver jewellery in India and abroad, how rebranding and re-launching of her online site helped the company stay ahead of the curve during the pandemic.
Sangeeta Boochra’s modish collections realised in silver and accented with polkis and gemstones have an underlying connect to antiquity. A designer and jewellery business entrepreneur, Sangeeta learned the ropes from her father-in-law Seth Lalit Kumar Boochra, who ran a jewellery manufacturing company. Inherently talented, Sangeeta is a self-taught designer and has learned the art of making fine jewellery at the workbench. Today, the handmade creations of her eponymous label are worn by clients including Bollywood & Hollywood stars, celebrities, and royalty.
Have you come up with any collections recently?
Yes, we have done lot of new collections in recent times, such as Charbagh, which has been inspired by the Mughal architecture and textile prints of that era. The other is Faces, targeting the younger audience. I have designed a collection of rings, earrings and necklaces that bear animal motifs mainly from Africa and Rajasthan.
How has the pandemic affected your business, and how have you powered ahead?
Overall, the pandemic has affected our offline business, but as were already present online since the last seven years, we invested heavily into IT, photo shoots, etc. and uploaded our catalogues – we rebranded and re-launched our website by adding many services that made navigation and shopping easy. We connected with our clients through FaceTime, video calls, messages and emailers. It resulted in us building a stronger relationship with our clients. It has been a huge plus!
How many retail outlets do you have in India? Is there a difference in buying patterns of consumers between online and offline businesses?
We have nearly 50 retail outlets across India, which is a mix of flagships, franchisees, etc.
Consumers who walk into stores can try on jewellery and check if the piece looks good on them. While online, consumers are wary despite putting up details like size, weight, and more.
Expensive and heavier pieces are instantly picked up in stores, but online consumers veer towards a particular price range.
Offline customers generally wait it out patiently for their bespoke pieces to be fabricated, but online buyers want instantly delivery of pieces.
What jewellery is currently trending in India?
Earrings are the hottest category in India, and consumers don’t prefer a piece laden with gemstones or polkis. Metal prices are high these days, and consumers want more of metal in a jewellery piece for its intrinsic value.
Tell us why silver is gaining popularity in the bridal segment?
Brides and bridesmaids today want to buy plain silver-finish jewellery instead of gold-plated silver jewellery. They either go with a plain silver finish (oxidised look) or a two-tone look.
Only a few brides like gold-plated silver jewellery, and would prefer buying gold jewellery instead.
Yes, there has been a great demand for silver bridal jewellery, in general, and celebrities and socialites, too, are wearing branded silver lines. Influencers have played a big role in inspiring brides to buy silver jewellery.
Is today’s consumer requesting for hallmarked jewellery?
Our jewellery has its own purity certificate, and as a policy all our pieces are hallmarked with a 925 purity stamp; however, this doesn’t hold good for old tribal pieces that are sourced and not made in our factory.
Which are your strong markets abroad and what type of designs do they prefer?
We export worldwide, and our major markets are the USA, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the UK, and Japan. They buy designs inspired by Indian culture but bearing a Western aesthetic. Rings and earrings are major sellers abroad. We have stores and a distribution network in all major countries.
Is all your jewellery handmade? How many artisans do you employ?
Yes, all our jewellery is handmade, we only use machines for few select orders where we specify to the client about the same before going ahead.
We employ more than 2,000 artisans pan India, which includes artisans from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir, Orissa, Karnataka, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, etc.
We would like to know more about your community development programme covering 400 villages and 25,000 artisans across India.
In 1998, my father-in-law Lalit Kumar Boochra and I jointly started a programme to train unskilled rural poor as jewellery artisans through community mobilisation and skill training. Besides offering fair wages, and educating them in matters of health and sanitation, we also financed the marriage of one daughter of every artisan.
Our aim was multi-fold: to preserve the dying jewellery crafts; train and set up a sustainable model for artisans to ensure a decent living; create pieces so that the forthcoming generations can admire and wear; and connect artisans to the world markets, by taking them to all trade shows and exporting their products to different countries of the world. We have been partnering with the Government, NGOs, etc., for this activity.
Through a grassroots network that requires specialised logistical support, raw material is dropped off at an artisan’s home, and to ensure that customers receive superior finished products, quality supervisors inspect the production to help ensure a consistent output while tracking progress. The final product is picked up from their doorstep and sent to the next stage of the jewellery making process.
We have built a network in these villages and clusters across India over a period of 22 years and now the connectivity amongst our artisans is very strong. These artisans form the core strength of our company.
Tell us about your brand’s collaboration with Emkay Diagnostics started last year in April to help Covid patients.
My son, Abhineet Boochra, the co-founder of the brand Sangeeta Boochra, started the initiative with Dr. Aslam Nagra of Emkay Diagnostics, for Covid patients unable to seek hospital admission. Today, they have started a 25-bed medically equipped facility for patients. To kickstart the administration for medical supplies, they tied up with Raj Khurana Hospital, to fulfill the extended endeavour of the helping hand initiative. Below are the details under each of the services. Since last year, the initiative has been helping patients to procure medicines, undergo tests, provide oxygen cylinders, and has donated food to covid patients and frontline workers.