A pearl encrusted success story
The tale of Hyderabad’s flagship pearl and precious jewellery business, Mangatrai Jewellers, which has been serving the city’s elite for over 100 years
In the early 1900s, the pearl market in Hyderabad would open after the arrival of a particular gentleman and shut for the day only after he left. The illustrious man we are referring to is Mangatrai, founder of the city’s world-renowned pearl trade. This is the same man who would string up rows of precious Basra pearls for the ruling Nizams. In fact, such was his dedication towards offering his clients a great variety of choices that Mangatrai would travel to Middle-Eastern countries like Iraq to source pearls, and often stayed there for months on end. While his wife found his long absences difficult to cope with, he wouldn’t cut down on travel as his business would suffer.
It is this same unfailing sense of commitment and dedication to work that has been inherited by everyone in his family. Over 100 years old, Mangatrai Jewellers is now being run by the fourth generation and deals in pearls, diamonds and precious gems.
After Mangatrai, the family business, which began with a shop in the Old City, was run by his son Ram Kumar. Later, his three sons Radheshyam, Chagan lal and Vishnu Gupta gradually took over. Now the three brothers run the show along with their children.
On their success, Chagan Lal’s son Darshan says, “Our strength lies in our togetherness. If you can work well together, your business will just multiply.” Elaborating on how two generations of brothers and cousins work together, he adds, “Each showroom is taken care of by one brother and we have eight showrooms. Each brother is responsible for his store and must meet his targets.” Without divulging actual figures, Darshan points out the wedding season as being the best time for business. He admits that growing competition has led to jewellery houses cutting down on their margins.
How do they manage to stay ahead of competition? “We have been offering our customers great quality, prices and service for the last 100 years. So even today, when people think of pearls, they think of Mangatrai.” Everyone from Prince Charles, Bill Clinton, cricketers, actors and industrialists come straight to this chain of stores for pearls.
When Mangatrai started the business, he would only deal in the now extinct Basra pearls. With the changing times, the business now includes dia-
A special gift for all the ladies in the family is a custom made pearl encrusted sari with 6,000 pearls, which had 100 people working on it
monds, polki and antique gold jewellery as well. They were also the first to introduce the Tahitian natural coloured cultured pearls in the market. And they still sell antique Basra pearls, which, according to Darshan, are a good investment as they appreciate in value every year.
Along with running the swanky new Banjara Hills store, Darshan also designs jewellery along with his twin brother Darpan, who works out of their flagship shop in Punjagutta. The twins are very close and enjoy working together as their thought process is the same. “We have never had an alone moment from childhood because we’ve always had each other.”
Since family splits are fairly common in the business world, how do they deal with friction? Darshan answers, “Sometimes disagreements do happen and we let time settle them. We all have our merits and demerits, so we just concentrate on each other’s strengths and work with them.” He also adds, “For us family comes first, even before business. If there is peace and harmony in the family, work automatically flourishes as everyone gives it their best.”
Before starting work at 10 am every day, the entire family gathers at the breakfast table where they discuss anything and everything. The youngest and fifth generation joins them at work on the weekends.
Darpan’s 14-year-old daughter Palkaian and 13-year-old son Mohak drop by their dad’s store to watch him work. “I spend two hours every weekend with my dad at work. I like to watch him dealing with customers and learn from him,” says Palkaian.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend and pearls make for perfect accessories. So how do the men in the family ensure that their wives don’t demand all the best pieces from the shops? A laughing Darpan says, “We now have a gift system in place. They are gifted jewellery only for important occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and store openings.”
A special gift for all the ladies in the family is a custom made pearl encrusted sari with 6,000 pearls, which had 100 people working on it. “But no one feels like wearing it anymore because it is so heavy. It has now become a showpiece at home,” says Darpan. Precious treats are not reserved only for the ladies. Once, when the family hosted a huge party at Falaknuma Palace, Darpan decided that all the men needed some bling. So, he designed diamond sherwani buttons for his brothers, cousins and uncles.