Marwar - - Contents - Text Joseph Rozario

With a business do­main that ex­tends from An­twerp to Hong Kong, from mines to brands and from im­pec­ca­ble gem­stones to breath­tak­ing jew­ellery, few names mea­sure up to the Kotharis of the KGK Group. Hav­ing made great strides un­der Navrat­tan Kothari, the house con­tin­ues on its up­ward growth tra­jec­tory un­der his sons, es­pe­cially San­jay Kothari.

With a business do­main that ex­tends from An­twerp to Hong Kong, from mines to brands and from im­pec­ca­ble gem­stones to breath­tak­ing jew­ellery, few names mea­sure up to the Kotharis of the KGK Group. Hav­ing made great strides un­der Navrat­tan Kothari, the house con­tin­ues on its up­ward growth tra­jec­tory un­der his sons, es­pe­cially San­jay Kothari, who is spear­head­ing the group’s ex­pan­sion glob­ally.

THE LUS­TRE OF JEWELS HAS HELD roy­als and com­mon­ers alike in their spell from times im­memo­rial and man’s undy­ing fas­ci­na­tion for them has had trea­sure hunters and pur­vey­ors ex­plore not just the deep­est, dark­est re­cesses of the earth, but also un­der­take long, per­ilous jour­neys in their quest. It is one such daunt­ing jour­ney from Jaipur to Ran­goon to which the KGK Group owes its be­ing.

A tale of two cities

“The foun­da­tion of this business house was laid in 1905, when Keshri­malji Kothari started trad­ing in coloured gem­stones,” says Navrat­tan Kothari, talk­ing about the in­cep­tion of the KGK Group. As pa­tri­arch of the KGK Group and the third gen­er­a­tion of the Kotharis, un­der Navrat­tan Kothari the house has seen ex­po­nen­tial growth.

“In those days, Ran­goon [now Yan­gon] was the hub of the gems trade, as Burma [now Myan­mar] pro­duced pre­cious stones such as sap­phires, pearls, jade and the world’s best ru­bies,” con­tin­ues Navrat­tan Kothari. “Gems were bought and sold in Ran­goon and brought to Ra­jasthan for cut­ting and pol­ish­ing. Sens­ing growth prospects, Keshri­malji was fired by the idea of go­ing to Ran­goon to try his luck.”

With his business acu­men and re­mark­able knack for the gems trade, Keshri­mal Kothari was a huge suc­cess. In­spired, his son Ghisi­lal too joined him in Ran­goon as a teenager, and the rest, as they say, is his­tory. The business they founded still bears their name. What then was called Keshri­mal Ghisi­lal Kothari (Jewellers & Di­a­mond Mer­chant) is now the KGK Group, ‘KGK’ be­ing the acro­nym for ‘Keshri­mal Ghisi­lal Kothari’. A lead­ing multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tion, it com­mands pres­ence in the A-Z of the jew­ellery business, start­ing from sourc­ing of roughs from mines to sell­ing the best in branded jew­ellery.

Hav­ing joined the fam­ily business in the early six­ties, Navrat­tan Kothari has spent well over half a cen­tury guid­ing and man­ag­ing the group, dur­ing which time he has trans­formed it into a truly global con­glom­er­ate, as was his vi­sion. Cred­ited with start­ing new prof­itable ven­tures, the house es­tab­lished its pres­ence in the en­tire sup­ply chain of coloured stones un­der him—from pro­cure­ment to man­u­fac­tur­ing to dis­tri­bu­tion. He also fore­saw bright prospects for the di­a­mond sec­tor—though it was still in its nascent stage in In­dia—and ven­tured into it, reap­ing rich re­turns.

As pa­tri­arch, Navrat­tan Kothari is still at the helm of af­fairs, but a large part of the business is now man­aged by his sons San­jay and San­deep, who have firmly en­trenched them­selves into the business. While San­jay is cur­rently based in Hong Kong, spear­head­ing the group’s ex­pan­sion glob­ally, as its vice chair­man, San­deep, who is based in An­twerp and is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the group, is en­gaged in ex­pand­ing the group’s pol­ished di­a­mond business in Europe. His many suc­cess­ful ini­tia­tives in­clude de­vel­op­ing trusted sup­plier re­la­tion­ships with top names in the in­dus­try such as De Beers, Al­rosa, Rio Tinto and Do­min­ion Di­a­monds.

Chip off the old block

San­jay Kothari started tak­ing in­ter­est in the fam­ily business rather early, join­ing it for­mally in 1986. “I learned from scratch,” he says re­call­ing his early days in the group. “Those were the growth years of this business and ev­ery­one had a train­ing cen­tre. I learnt the ba­sics of the business, as well as dif­fer­ent pro­cesses in­volved and then came back to KGK.”

San­jay’s first ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to the group came by way of set­ting up a di­a­mond pro­cess­ing unit in Mum­bai, the ob­jec­tive be­ing to aug­ment the di­a­mond business that his fa­ther had es­tab­lished. Em­bold­ened, he next shifted base to Hong Kong to boost the group’s di­a­mond sales and mar­ket­ing op­er­a­tions in the Far East, mainly in Hong Kong, Tai­wan, Ja­pan, China, Korea and Thai­land. This done, he was back to In­dia, if only to start the group’s jew­ellery man­u­fac­tur­ing ver­ti­cal by way of set­ting up jew­ellery man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions at SEEPZ (San­tacruz Elec­tron­ics Ex­port Pro­cess­ing Zone), Mum­bai and later in Hong Kong, China and Thai­land, along with mar­ket­ing cen­tres world­wide. With the house’s grow­ing re­pute un­der his lead­er­ship, in 1997, KGK was awarded a ‘sightholder’ sta­tus by the De Beers Group (the largest pro­ducer and seller of rough di­a­monds in the world), mak­ing KGK an au­tho­rised bulk pur­chaser of De Beers’ di­a­monds.

Hav­ing tra­versed so many roads, San­jay is a sea­soned busi­ness­man and jew­eller to­day, whose never-end­ing quest to at­tain new mile­stones high­lights the en­tre­pre­neur­ial ge­nius of the fam­ily’s fourth gen­er­a­tion. With his lead­er­ship qual­i­ties and pa­tri­arch Navrat­tan Kothari’s ex­pert guid­ance, the group has emerged as one of the very few jewellers in the world who are in­volved in every step of the jew­ellery mak­ing process. Re­flect­ing on the jour­ney, San­jay Kothari says, “The KGK Group is one of the few play­ers in the world to be pre­sent across the value chain of the gems and jew­ellery in­dus­try. It has in­vest­ments in pri­mary gem­stone min­ing in Africa and South

Amer­ica to en­sure that the raw ma­te­ri­als it uses in its jew­ellery are of a su­pe­rior qual­ity. KGK also pro­cesses these gem­stones and has man­u­fac­tur­ing units that bring out ex­quis­ite de­signs in jew­ellery for the global mar­ket. This in­te­grated mines-to-brands op­er­a­tion helps the com­pany ex­tend great value to the client.”

Di­verse of­fer­ings

The KGK Group of­fers an ex­cep­tional range of gem­stones that in­cludes ru­bies, emer­alds, sap­phires, amethysts, aqua­marines, blue topaz, cit­rines, gar­nets, green tour­ma­lines, mor­gan­ites, paraibas, peri­dots, quartz, rubel­lites, tan­zan­ites, etc. KGK is also into pro­cess­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion of di­a­monds, of­fer­ing an ex­cep­tional range of stones in pop­u­lar sizes, shades and shapes. The group’s global di­a­mond op­er­a­tions are based in An­twerp.

In the jew­ellery seg­ment, KGK’s prod­ucts cover the en­tire spec­trum of the jew­ellery mar­ket. It of­fers im­pec­ca­bly de­signed col­lec­tions fea­tur­ing di­a­monds and gem­stones in plat­inum, gold and sil­ver set­tings; it man­u­fac­tures mid-range, en­try level and lux­ury prod­ucts for var­i­ous markets; it has man­u­fac­tur­ing units in over seven coun­tries and mar­ket­ing of­fices across the globe; and of­fers a range of branded jew­ellery as well, in­clud­ing the group’s in-house brand En­tice.

Talk­ing about En­tice, San­jay Kothari says, “En­tice was launched by the KGK Group at the turn of the millennium in Hong Kong to of­fer fine jew­ellery at in­com­pa­ra­ble prices—where each jewel comes with qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to en­dorse its value.” En­tice was de­vel­oped en­tirely in-house un­der the guid­ance of San­jay Kothari’s wife, Manju Kothari (who is also its cre­ative di­rec­tor). The brand boasts five stand-alone bou­tiques, spread across Hong Kong, Jaipur, New Delhi, Mum­bai and Ben­galuru.

Apart from En­tice, KGK has also ac­quired sev­eral well-known in­ter­na­tional jew­ellery brands, with the dual ob­jec­tive of adding value and di­ver­sity to the group’s port­fo­lio of of­fer­ings and es­tab­lish­ing a strong global pres­ence. These in­clude Martin Flyer (com­mer­cial jew­ellery), Gregg Ruth (ex­clu­sive jew­ellery), KIROS (French jew­ellery brand) and Amer­i­can brand Judith Ripka (for which KGK has ac­quired world­wide man­u­fac­tur­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion rights).

A be­he­moth

So how big does all this make KGK? “The KGK Group has a global pres­ence across 17 coun­tries to­day and has evolved as one of the most pre­ferred brands in the gems and jew­ellery space,” says San­jay Kothari. “There are very few jewellers in the world who are in­volved Clock­wise from top left: Jew­ellery man­u­fac­tur­ing (prong set­ting) in progress at a KGK ate­lier; Ar­ti­sans at work at the di­a­mond pol­ish­ing sec­tion of the di­a­mond man­u­fac­tur­ing unit of KGK in Su­rat, In­dia; Jew­ellery man­u­fac­tur­ing in progress, where prongs are be­ing bent to hold the stone

The KGK Group is one of the few play­ers in the world to be pre­sent across the value chain of the gems and jew­ellery in­dus­try

Navrat­tan Kothari

Clock­wise from top left: Keshri­mal Kothari; Ghisi­lal Kothari; the business Keshri­mal Kothari es­tab­lished in Ran­goon in 1905

Clock­wise from top left: In­tri­cately de­signed di­a­mond neck­lace, hand­crafted us­ing mar­quise, pear and emer­ald cut di­a­monds; San­jay Kothari; Jew­ellery on dis­play at the Hong Kong bou­tique of En­tice

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