The mainstay of OM Jewellers’ business since 1999 has been the goodwill that they enjoy with their loyal consumers. The Jakhia family have proactively collaborated with the luxury industry to broaden their traditional consumer base. The opening of Mumbai’s first Forevermark De Beers boutique on Turner Road, Bandra, marks a beginning of a new chapter in their growth story. Anil Prabhakar met CEO Bhavin Jakhia, to get a perspective on the road ahead for OM Jewellers.
You have been in business for the last 22 years. How would you describe the current business outlook?
We did witness a slowdown during Covid-19. However, the business has really picked up in the last six months because of the pent-up demand. One important reason is that consumers have rediscovered that jewellery is a source of value. During the pandemic as there were restrictions on travel and weddings were low key, consumers bought jewellery for themselves and for gifting to their loved ones.
With the lifting of restrictions, we are witnessing good footfalls and high conversion rates. I’m sure that the festive season and wedding season till January 2022 and Valentine’s Day in February will keep us extremely busy.
What are the current trends in buyer behaviour? What kind of jewellery are consumers buying?
We are witnessing a good traction in all the consumer segments. Our Jodha collection comprising of polki and jadau jewellery is doing well. Youngsters are attracted to our ROZ collection, which is a blend of two words ‘rose’ and ‘everyday’ (roz). It embodies the aesthetic and functional aspects of the collection. Millennials have been buying precious jewellery to feel good and not just look good.
OM Jewellers started jewellery manufacturing business from Zaveri Bazar before moving to Borivali (a distant western suburb of Mumbai). Can you explain the transition from jewellery manufacturing to retail?
Serendipity played an important role in our family’s transition from manufacturing to retail.
My father Narendra and uncle Mukesh used to invest the profits generated from their business in real estate, and in 1997, they bought a residential flat in the emerging suburb of Borivali. The builder, who was facing a financial crunch, offered them additional commercial space in the same building at a lucrative price. Getting into jewellery retail had not occurred to them and they planned to rent out the commercial property to earn additional fixed income.
The period coincided with the branded retail revolution that led to the opening of exclusive apparel and sport shoe boutiques all over the country. And our family contemplated opening a franchised brand outlet such as Nike or Levis!
A close family friend suggested to my father and uncle that the Borivali suburb was a good jewellery market we should try and set up a jewellery store. Fortunately, my father had always believed in up stocking and hence had adequate inventory levels to start the journey into retail business.
The founders took a conscious decision to retail only 22-karat hallmarked jewellery that we manufactured for the export market. OM Jewellers were among the first few Indian jewellers to sell hallmarked jewellery.
When did Om Jewellers diversify into diamond jewellery?
OM Jewellers has been a close knit, family-managed company since the inception in 1939. All the members live under the same roof!
I formally joined the family business in 2001 after completing my graduation from Sydenham’s and Family MBA from NMIMS.
Our export business was losing its charm since competition was intense. On the other hand, our retail business had begun to receive good response in Borivali, and therefore it made sense to focus on it.
To attract a new set of consumers and offer a wide variety of merchandise to our existing clientele, I began evaluating product options that would meet my objective and improve our margins.
Retailing diamond jewellery was the logical decision that we took.
In addition to heading accounts and marketing functions, I also took over the responsibility of setting up a new business vertical dedicated to diamond jewellery.
De Beers (DTC) was promoting diamond jewellery as a new category through their sightholders at that time. An aggressive multi-crore, multimedia campaign created awareness, aspirations, and a new set of consumers. Diamond jewellery brands such as Asmi, Nakshatra, Adora among others were launched in quick succession.
We enjoyed goodwill of our customers and it made sense to develop products, create and strengthen a strong store brand by also retailing diamond jewellery.
What made you open an exclusive store dedicated to De Beers’ Forevermark?
Our relationship with Forevermark began nine years ago. We began with a modest order of 50 diamonds. Their diamonds were priced higher as compared to the prevailing market rates. We saw value in the Forvermark programme in terms of the marketing support, new designs and learning opportunity. It was an investment decision that we took that has given us good returns.
I am happy to share that today 85% of our diamond jewellery is made from De Beers. The association with De Beers has been immensely fruitful.
Two years ago, an opportunity of opening a De Beers Forevermark exclusive store came our way. It was a tough decision to take as rentals in Bandra are among the most expensive in the country.
We were assured of the support from the company. Sachin Jain, Managing Director, De Beers Forevermark, and his team have been with us every step of the way.
While my family was firmly with me to ratify my decision, I was looking for an independent expert opinion that came from Retail Gurukul, a consulting & training company.
We decided to take the plunge and treat the Forevermark store as an independent Strategic Business Unit (SBU).
My wife Bhavna has taken over the responsibility as a profit centre head. The 650 sq ft store is located on Turner Road, Bandra, which has emerged as a diamond jewellery hub.
The initial response has been encouraging and we look forward to expanding to other locations.
While you are opening more brick-and-mortar stores, are there any plans to have an online gateway?
Yes, of course. We have realised the importance of the online medium, and we have conduct live sessions on Facebook twice a week. An e- commerce website is being set up and so is a CRM software being put in place. We want to make our business a professionally run retail organisation.
And how would you achieve that?
When my brother Bhavesh joined the business, we invested time in training and developing a motivated team.
While peer-to-peer learning has its advantages, it has its limitations, too. It tends to be subjective and yields mixed results.
In a retail organisation it is essential that all team members have unity of purpose and speak the same language.
We needed to have standard operating procedures (SOP) in place. I took lessons from the hospitality industry, especially 5-star hotels who offer a high quality of service and a structured approach to training. They rarely say ‘No’ to any of their customer requests. I believe that to survive and thrive in an era in which experiential retail is gaining precedence, we should emulate the hospitality industry.
Bhavna, is a stickler for details. Having been born and brought up in Britain, she believes in delivering high standards of customer service. As an organisation committed to professionalism, we have strengthened our team by hiring consultants, influencers, and a dedicated workforce.
What are the future plans for the company?
We have two stores in Mumbai’s western suburb, Borivali, one in Mulund, and the fourth one is a franchisee outlet of De Beers Forevermark in Bandra. We are planning to open a store in Ghatkopar in April 2022.