Dr. Saurabh Gadgil, Chairman and Managing Director, PNG Jewellers, shares his thoughts on the changing behavioural and jewellery buying habits of the newer generation of buyers. His predicts that H2 will witness strong jewellery sales, double that of last year.
The story of PNG Jewellers dates back to the 18th century and it is named after the late Purshottam Narayan Gadgil, a doyen of the family and the chief architect, who captured the hearts and imagination of the people with his ethics and his jewellery. The brand has been run by six generations of jewellers! Dr. Saurabh Gadgil, Chairman and Managing Director, PNG Jewellers, explains how the brand has still maintained its rich legacy, and upheld time-tested values for generations together.
Tell us more about the PNG Jewellers brand.
The fundamental belief of our almost two-centuries-old brand is “Think Pure”. When we talk about purity, we mean not only the purity of our products but the purity of our intentions and actions. It comes through by the way the brand deals with society at large. This approach from the very beginning has created our legacy – that of upholding faith and trust of our stakeholders. It has always attracted fine people, whether it is employees, partners or customers. PNG Jewellers is proud to be among the small, elite circle of brands that stand for trust in our country.
How and when did you start your journey into the field of jewellery?
In 1999, I was in my first year studying for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at Symbiosis, Pune, when we faced an issue with an export consignment. Since I was doing my Masters in foreign trade, it gave me an opportunity to intervene and solve that issue. That turned out to be my unexpected tryst with the jewellery business.
Around 2000, I had interned with the Reserve Bank of India where I worked on a report on gold markets in the country. That gave me a chance to meet bankers, economists and jewellers thereby laying the foundation for my entry into business. In 2001, I completed my MBA, and joined business full time. I have completed 20 years and have taken the business from a single store to a chain of stores in India and abroad.
How many stores do you have in India and abroad?
We have around 35 stores in India, one each in the USA and Dubai. These stores are a mix of company-owned and operated as well as franchise stores. Besides, our e-commerce store caters to customers globally across all product categories.
What is the USP of the PNG brand?
Our USP is reliability. Honouring our commitments across all spheres of business — be it towards customers by fulfilling orders on time to providing new designs that match their aesthetics, dealing with our suppliers ethically and helping them grow, to our employees whose wellbeing we care about the most. Honouring our commitments is at the core of everything we do.
Given the rising prices of gold, do you think consumers will shy away from buying jewellery?
In fact it’s quite the opposite. Gold has always stood the test of time as a hedge against inflation, as a store of value, which it continues to be. So I see people’s love for gold and jewellery has increased and will continue to do so. The pandemic has brought the focus back on gold as the safest form of investment. Especially for first-time investors and millennials who used to live by the adage of ‘you only live once’ have steered completely towards the idea of saving and investments. Safety and liquidity are most important when investing and gold stands true on both these counts.
What in your opinion is the future of diamond jewellery in India? PNG has had tie-ups in the past with Forevermark. How did those lines fare?
India is still a growing diamond market, and has not reached saturation. I think the coming decade will see a spurt in demand for diamonds. People in India know what to look for in a diamond, what is good and what isn’t. Diamonds are seen as upgradation to a lifestyle and have an aspirational value. Diamonds are the second most important category in jewellery after gold.
As India’s economy progresses, demand for diamonds will only rise. Diamond and gold jewellery will not compete with each other but will do well as both categories will attract respective customers. India is known globally for good quality diamonds and that will further the growth of diamond jewellery here.
PNG is in an ongoing partnership with Forevermark. Almost all our stores are selling Forevermark diamonds and that is a mainstream category for us. Forevermark is a fantastic brand which has seeped into the Indian mindset and upholds key values that we as a brand also stand for. PNG Jewellers sells Forevermark diamond jewellery to its customers and it is a mutually beneficial relationship which is blossoming as years go by.
How has the brand been impacted by the pandemic?
Every industry has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. Fortunately for the jewellery industry, gold prices have risen so the losses have been somewhat mitigated due to it.
The pandemic has brought in new customers; we are witnessing a rise in sales due to the pent-up demand; and I think the pandemic has been in some ways beneficial for the industry as it has opted for the digital route. At the same time, the pandemic has brought about an increased focus on gold as an investment, especially among the younger audience. The habit of saving was fundamental to households in India for decades, but later it got diluted as newer generations believed in living for the moment. Now, saving money is back in focus as a core behavioural trait. The pandemic has also made people realise the importance of good buyback policies, guarantees and the value of a trusted brand. So it’s a good time for seasoned, organised players … We will also see some clean-up happening, which will ensure more profitability, better experience for customers and a more organised jewellery industry overall.
How did you stay connected to your clients during these difficult times? How much did PNG rely on its online presence?
PNG like every other brand was heavily reliant on digital marketing to reach out to our customers. Fortunately, we had begun investing in enhancing our digital capabilities even before the pandemic hit us.
The focus during the pandemic was to ensure that we constantly kept the communication channels open with our consumers. We weren’t hard-selling and our efforts were towards sharing our concern for customers, giving them our advice on saving and investing. Selling had become secondary and need-based depending on the requirements of customers. We made sure that our backend was extremely robust to meet all challenges with respect to deliveries, logistics and customer queries. We also put together a helpline for our customers as well as employees for counselling and providing the support needed towards mental health management during such uncertainty. We believe what will be remembered once the pandemic is over is the relationship that we shared with our customers and our employees during the difficult times.
What are the current buying trends among your customers?
New consumers are now looking at gold as an investment vehicle. Wedding jewellery buying has started again, although it’s a little subdued in terms of grammage because of small scale weddings, and constrained budgets.
At the same time, we are seeing customers who are investing more in gold jewellery because other wedding-related expenditure has gone down.
The customer is not just concerned about the product but also about other services that we provide. This is a more mature market rather than a market led by discounts.
One year down the line, we will see the demand coming back in full measure bringing in a new set of customers. “See online, buy offline” will be of primary importance, and e-commerce will play a vital role in shaping consumer preference and experience, which, in turn, will lead to faster check-out time at the store.
What is your outlook for the second half of 2021?
We are hoping that the third wave induced by the Delta variant will not hit India badly. It is our hope and assumption that we should have a good Diwali. The next six months of the financial year should be good, both in terms of positive sentiment and buying. The scenario may replicate the last year when demand rose during Diwali and even later. If last year demand was x, this year it will be 2x. This time the industry is better prepared, and consumers, who are looking at real and safer investments, will have gold on top of their minds.