Legacy of Leadership

“GIA has been instrumental in equipping me with the expertise to educate and empower our team.”

– Mohit Shekhar, GIA Graduate Gemologist®, of Manohar Lal Sarraf and Sons Jewellers

Can you tell us how the legacy of Manohar Lal Sarraf was born and share a brief history of the brand? How has the brand and its legacy developed throughout changing times?

Our legacy began in 1930 in Meerut, with my great grandfather, Manohar Lal Sarraf, as the founder. Starting from a small store, he grew the business with his dedication and hard work. He entered the jewellery industry by working as a support staff for his uncle. Over time, his integrity and capabilities led to become a partner, and he instilled these values in subsequent generations.

In 2003, our family made a strategic move to Delhi, and we expanded to eight family-owned stores in Delhi-NCR and Meerut. We have stayed relevant by staying true to our principles: doing what we say and emphasising beauty, purity, and security. In 1995, we recognised the importance of hallmarked jewellery, and in Delhi, we became the only store with 100% hallmarked jewellery. Our focus was on GIA-certified solitaires ranging from 30 points to below 30 points, ensuring quality and certification for every piece. We take pride in maintaining our commitment to ethics and integrity.

The legacy of our brand is not just about us but also about our clients and team. We have built enduring relationships, with clients coming back to us for generations, knowing that what they buy from us holds value and has a future. Our brand represents beauty, with innovative designs, and provides security, as every purchase holds future worth.

To maintain the purity, we implement thorough quality assurance and quality control measures, conducting random checks to ensure our jewellery meets the promised standard. We believe that jewellery not only represents style and fashion, but also serves as a means of wealth creation. For the past 93 years, our brand has stood the test of time, guided by our founder’s passion and the values we hold dear.

There are several members in your family who are GIA alumni. Can you briefly share your experience of completing your GIA Graduate Gemmologist in 2013?

My family has been in the jewellery business for years, and in 2003, we moved from Meerut to New Delhi. It was then that my father, along with my uncles, decided to pursue their GIA diplomas. My father took a two-month break from work and travelled to Mumbai to complete the Graduate Diamonds program at GIA’s campus. He would send us his test results, always scoring impressively high. Seeing his dedication, even my uncles enrolled in the Graduate Diamonds programme.

My father and uncles took the time off from business to gain in-depth knowledge and a professional approach to the industry. The GIA programme emphasised even the smallest details, like how to hold a tweezer when handling diamonds. It was a strict environment, but we knew it was crucial for our growth. Two of my elder cousins went to Carlsbad, and later, my cousin and I also enrolled in the Carlsbad campus for the Graduate Gemologist program.

During our time at GIA, we had rigorous training, and I’m proud that I was able to grade 3,250 stones, surpassing the required 1,850 stones. Our senior instructor was strict but fair. He pushed us to excel, and receiving smileys on our test results for getting all the stones correct was rewarding. It was a valuable experience for me.

How do you believe your gemmological knowledge has contributed to your business?

After completing my GIA course in 2013, I took my time to apply the knowledge I gained. Initially, I had no understanding of diamonds or how to engage with clients. However, as I delved into the business, I found diamonds and coloured stones fascinating. It took me a couple of years to incorporate this newfound knowledge into our family business.

In India, only rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and a few other gemstones are popular. However, at GIA, I studied a wide variety of stones that aren’t widely recognised in India. I had to convince others within the business and our customers about the value and beauty of these lesser-known gemstones. Jewellery is not just an investment; it’s a way to showcase one’s personal style.

I am delighted that now I can effectively explain and sell these unique gemstones. Educating clients about stones like tourmalines, their different varieties, and their value range has been essential. For instance, tourmalines can range from

₹500 to 5 lakh rupees per carat, with the rare Paraiba tourmalines being highly prized. Over the years, I have sold only three Paraiba tourmalines, as I could convey their rarity and significance to the clients.

Additionally, my father encouraged me to share my knowledge with our employees, especially those involved in production and procurement. I created comprehensive notes for each stone, including its sources and relevant information that clients may inquire about. This training ensures that our employees can offer an immersive experience and tell the story behind each stone. GIA has been instrumental in equipping me with the expertise to educate and empower our team.

Initially, I lacked confidence in experimenting and engaging with clients. However, over time, my GIA training and experience enabled me to develop a sense of assurance and sell with conviction. It’s a combination of knowledge, passion, and the ability to communicate effectively that makes a significant difference in our business.

How crucial do you believe your employees are in the success of your brand, and how well do they contribute to your organisation?

The team is the backbone of our business. With eight family-owned stores and a staff of 250 people, our employees play a vital role in the success of our brand. We believe that if we help them grow, they will help us grow.

To ensure consistency across all our stores, we prioritise training and development. I personally conduct training sessions regularly, sharing my experiences and knowledge with the team. In these sessions, I discuss changes happening in the industry and emphasise the importance of staying  informed.  Clients  today  are  smart  and well-informed, and our employees need to be equipped with the knowledge to cater to their needs.

When customers visit any of our stores, they should have a consistent experience. Our employees, especially the salespeople, play a crucial role in creating a positive and knowledgeable environment. Their expertise and willingness to go the extra mile contribute to the satisfaction of our clients. We often receive feedback from customers praising the helpfulness and knowledge of our staff.

We understand that employees need to feel valued and secure in their roles. We organise employee interactions, celebrate birthdays, and host events after busy periods to acknowledge their hard work. Creating a sense of belonging and camaraderie is essential. These initiatives foster an environment where our employees feel motivated and proud to be a part of our brand.

Moreover, we have instilled a customer-centric mindset among our employees. We emphasise going above and beyond for our clients, ensuring that they feel pampered and valued. We prioritise quality, and if any mistake occurs, we accept responsibility and take the necessary steps to rectify it. Building trust and delivering on our promises are essential to our brand’s reputation.

In the end, our brand is not just what we envision, but what our clients perceive and experience. By consistently providing exceptional service and creating a welcoming environment, we have built a loyal customer base that has helped shape our brand. The dedication and contributions of our employees are instrumental in maintaining our legacy and ensuring our continued success.

“Excerpts taken from GIA India’s Legacy of Leadership Knowledge Series interview conducted live on Zoom. Attendance by invitation only. Register on collective.GIA.edu as GIA alumni to get notified about upcoming events.

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