Gems & Jewellery, All Tom­fool­ery

How to get the young gen­er­a­tion to buy jewellery is the mil­lion dol­lar question that the in­dus­try is grap­pling with

Business Today - - CONTENTS - COL­UMN/ Rashmi Bansal

How to get the young gen­er­a­tion to buy jewellery is the mil­lion-dol­lar question that the in­dus­try is grap­pling with

Last week, I was in­vited to speak at the Gem & Jewellery Trade Fair re­gional net­work­ing meet. As I walked through the ex­hi­bi­tion hall, it struck me that jewellery is an in­her­ently fe­male prod­uct. But the own­ers and ex­hibitors present were all men.

They had to come to Kolkata from as far as Ban­ga­lore and In­dore, Udaipur and Akola. De­mon­eti­sa­tion had hit them all hard but was now a done deed. What wor­ried them even more was the fu­ture.

“These days if a man asks his wife what do you want for your birth­day, she will say iPhone.” 60,000 bucks which could have been spent on jewellery, di­verted to an elec­tronic item with a life of 24 months and lit­tle re­sale value.

How to get the young gen­er­a­tion to buy jewellery is the mil­lion dol­lar question. The in­dus­try cur­rently has no an­swer. The last suc­cess­ful jewellery cam­paign was prob­a­bly by De Beers, which got folks to be­lieve ‘di­a­monds are for­ever’. But that is so 1990s. It’s sta­tus quo.

Pick up any in-flight rag and you will see that 80 per cent ads are by jew­ellers. The funny thing is, the pieces they ad­ver­tise are all Ma­ha­rani of Man­dore type. Hu­mon­gous, ache-in­duc­ing chok­ers, half- kilo­gram ear­rings and im­prac­ti­cal ba­jubands. Each item is priced not in thou­sands but in lakhs.

Who is this jewellery for? Not the woman -- she’s go­ing to wear it once, sto­ically, and put it into a State Bank of In­dia locker. They say it’s her stree dhan or fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity. But if you ask me, a flat worth `30 lakh is a bet­ter se­cu­rity than a tola of jewellery. Es­pe­cially if the mar­riage fails.

What about jewellery that makes a woman feel beau­ti­ful? Well, of course. But who says it has to be real? The stan­dards of im­i­ta­tion jewellery are so high to­day that a ` 3,000 neck piece looks as good as a ` 3 lakh set. Un­less you are a hawk- eyed aunty or a pro­fes­sional gold­smith.

“Madam wo feeeeeel nahin aati,” a jew­eller at the con­fer­ence said to me. I agreed. The fake stuff is lighter, eas­ier to carry, can be kept at home, and can be dis­carded when you get bored of it. If I am wear­ing jewellery for my own plea­sure and not to show my sta­tus - that changes the whole par­a­digm, doesn’t it?

This shift led to the rise of mul­ti­ple new- age jewellery brands.

Most no­tably Nak­sha­tra by Gi­tan­jali jewels ( Gili) in the early 2000s. But sadly, the com­pany has fallen on bad times, due to greed and mis­man­age­ment. Gili is­sued cer­tifi­cates for every piece of jewellery it sold. But the fine print said that if you ever re­turn or ex­change it you get 80 per cent of the price originally paid. So, af­ter 10 years, the ring you bought for `10,000 is worth `8,000...never mind the fact that gold prices have dou­bled dur­ing the pe­riod.

In fact, all jew­ellers sell on the ba­sis of trust, but that trust comes to nought when you take your mom’s 40- year- old ban­gles to Tan­ishq and learn kitni mi­lawat hai. In the old days they could get away with it, and let’s face it, no one liked to pay high ‘mak­ing’ charges. So, the jew­eller gave a dis­count, but cut cor­ners by a carat or two.

So, what can jew­ellers do to re­verse this down­ward trend? First of all, I be­lieve the women in the fam­ily need to join the pro­fes­sion. The in­dus­try has to rein­vent it­self from users’ point of view. A man who has never worn an earring can never know the pain of screw­ing on a ‘ pench’. Or the even greater pain of los­ing the bloody thing ( made of gold for no good rea­son) and spend­ing `2,000 for a re­place­ment.

In­no­va­tion is not just about prod­uct, it is also about dis­tri­bu­tion. Carat­lane was the first to sell soli­taires on­line and peo­ple were scep­ti­cal. They were proven wrong. So, how about jew­ellers start­ing a por­tal for kitty par­ties. Sign up with your lo­cal jew­eller and get a so-called free lunch if you com­mit the kitty to buy­ing a nice piece from our shop.

Win-win for every­body.

Or, here’s a re­ally wild idea — for every ex­trav­a­gant wed­ding set you sell, pro­vide a replica in imita tion jewellery. So, while the as­set lies in the locker, I can wear the lighter, travel-friendly nakli ver­sion —- and en­joy it. Will this work? Can it be a USP? I don't know. The point is you gotta keep try­ing. And some­thing will click.

All over the world, women are get­ting mar­ried later. And some, not at all. In Seoul, South Korea, there is a wed­ding cafe. Here, you can dress up in a bridal gown and get your dream pic­ture shot, in case you never ac­tu­ally walk the aisle. Well, such a day may even­tu­ally be upon us in In­dia. By then I hope the jewellery in­dus­try sheds its pa­tri­ar­chal past and em­braces an eman­ci­pated fu­ture where men don’t buy women’s loy­alty with ex­pen­sive rocks and women don’t sit idle and ‘ get looked af­ter’. They buy their own jewels, for free­dom comes at a price. ~

Here's a re­ally wild idea — for every ex­trav­a­gant wed­ding set you sell, pro­vide a replica in im­i­ta­tion jewellery. So, while the as­set lies in the locker, I can wear the lighter, travel-friendly ver­sion and en­joy it. Will this work? Can it be a USP? I don't know. The point is you gotta keep try­ing. And some­thing will click.

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