In­dian Di­a­mond In­dus­try Walks The Path Of KIND­NESS

With more than one mil­lion peo­ple em­ployed in the di­a­mond sec­tor, In­dia is the world’s largest man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­tre for cut and pol­ished di­a­monds, con­tribut­ing 70% of the world’s sup­ply in value and 85% in vol­ume. Eleven out of ev­ery 12 di­a­monds set in je

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In­dia shares a mil­len­nia-old re­la­tion­ship with di­a­monds – they were, af­ter all, first dis­cov­ered here. In­di­ans were the first to un­leash the bril­liance of the di­a­mond, and their pas­sion for the busi­ness still runs deep. In­dian dia­man­taires and their work­force are known to con­tin­u­ously adapt to the chang­ing dy­nam­ics of the in­dus­try. The fam­ily-run busi­nesses are see­ing an in­fu­sion of young blood, and these young Turks un­der­stand the need for train­ing and har­ness­ing other skills to main­tain a lead­ing edge over other global play­ers.

“Skills ex­e­cuted at the low­est cost is key to In­dia’s suc­cess. The coun­try spends the low­est per carat on pol­ish­ing and cut­ting of di­a­monds, as against its com­peti­tors in China, South Africa and so on,” says Vas­ant Me­hta, chair­man, In­dian In­sti­tute of Gems & Jew­ellery (IIGJ), and di­rec­tor, Na­tional Skill De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NSDC). The vast re­sources of man­power com­bined with the skill of the In­dian ar­ti­san and the re­lent­less ef­forts of In­dian en­trepreneur­s who have taken on the daunt­ing task of set­ting up this in­dus­try are ad­di­tional con­trib­u­tors to In­dia’s suc­cess, Me­hta adds.

Al­though In­dia pi­o­neered the cut­ting of small di­a­monds, today its crafts­men are equally skilled at cut­ting all shapes and sizes of stones. “In­dia is the only cen­tre which of­fers a truly mind-bog­gling va­ri­ety of gems and plain, di­a­mond- and gem­stone-stud­ded jew­ellery suited for ev­ery need in ev­ery mar­ket across the world. None of the other ma­jor pro­duc­ing coun­tries of­fers buy­ers such a com­plete range of choices,” notes Me­hta.

Much of In­dia’s suc­cess could not have hap­pened without ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy, but in­deed our ar­ti­sans’ in­sight and skills have been en­hanced with the state-of-theart tech­nol­ogy. Also, with many indige­nous com­pa­nies be­com­ing sighthold­ers of the Di­a­mond Trad­ing Com­pany (DTC), Al­rosa and Rio Tinto, procur­ing more rough was not an is­sue. Thus, cou­pled with ar­ti­sans’ in­sight and knowl­edge and sup­ple­mented by tech­nol­ogy, larger and bet­ter qual­ity rough started be­ing pro­cessed here.

“In­dia is the cen­tre of im­ple­men­ta­tion of tech­nol­ogy, In­dia’s labour source is not only low-cost but also flex­i­ble and eas­ily adapts to new tech­nol­ogy. In fact, it is amaz­ing to note that In­dian di­a­mond man­u­fac­tur­ers and ar­ti­sans are filled with a com­pelling urge to em­brace new tech­nol­ogy. The lat­est ad­vances in­vari­ably find their way to Su­rat, and man­u­fac­tur­ers get the op­ti­mum re­sult out of it,” says Uzi Le­vami, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Sarin, Is­rael.

“The In­dian di­a­mond cut­ters are early adopters. They are will­ing to learn and eval­u­ate new tech­nolo­gies, to find out if the ma­chine can do it bet­ter than them,” adds Akiva Caspi, vice pres­i­dent for mar­ket­ing

“Skills ex­e­cuted at the low­est cost is key to In­dia’s suc­cess. The coun­try spends the low­est per carat on pol­ish­ing and cut­ting of di­a­monds, as against its com­peti­tors in China, South Africa and so on.”

“We have our own chal­lenges to face like train­ing of man­power, at­tract­ing new tal­ent in the in­dus­try and mak­ing di­a­mond man­u­fac­tur­ing in­ter­est­ing enough so that it can com­pete with ris­ing salaries of other in­dus­tries.”

and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Sarin. “Many Is­raeli com­pa­nies have shifted their man­u­fac­tur­ing to In­dia by set­ting up their own plants or by work­ing with lo­cal part­ners or sub­con­tract­ing to lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers. The main rea­son be­hind this dras­tic change is the work­force of skilled, in­dus­tri­ous and knowl­edge­able ar­ti­sans. They have un­der­stood you can’t beat In­di­ans on this front. So if you can’t beat them, it’s bet­ter to join them.”

How­ever, on a cau­tious note, Raj Dho­lakia of Bha­vani Gems, says, “We have our own chal­lenges to face like train­ing of man­power, at­tract­ing new tal­ent in the in­dus­try and mak­ing di­a­mond man­u­fac­tur­ing in­ter­est­ing enough so that it can com­pete with ris­ing salaries of other in­dus­tries.”

A strong bond

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween dia­man­taires and ar­ti­sans can­not be de­cou­pled as they both share a unique part­ner­ship. The ties are kept in­tact be­cause of the trust, re­spect and hard work that they have for each other. This bon­homie has contribute­d to some sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ments in the di­a­mond in­dus­try as a whole.

Credit must be given to min­ing com­pa­nies like De Beers and Rio Tinto that di­rectly and in­di­rectly helped in the bet­ter­ment of the work­ing con­di­tions of ar­ti­sans. For in­stance, the small Ar­gyle di­a­monds that were avail­able in plenty were hard to cut. Ar­gyle helped the In­dian di­a­mond in­dus­try to de­velop di­a­mond-im­preg­nated scaifes, bet­ter known as di­a­mond scaifes (pol­ish­ing wheels). The In­dian di­a­mond cut­ters were able to achieve 18 pol­ished facets on di­a­monds lit­tle big­ger than a grain of sand. Thus, ar­ti­sans were able to pro­duce at higher vol­umes and achieve bet­ter re­sults. To help fa­cil­i­tate the re­spon­si­ble growth of the In­dian di­a­mond in­dus­try, Rio Tinto’s ground­break­ing Busi­ness Ex­cel­lence Model was launched in In­dia in 2003. These man­age­ment tools en­cour­aged In­dian man­u­fac­tur­ers to bet­ter their work­place, and mod­ify so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices to global stan­dards, re­as­sur­ing the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket that qual­ity as­sur­ance mech­a­nisms were in place for di­a­monds cut and pol­ished by Rio Tinto di­a­mond cus­tomers in In­dia.

Sim­i­larly, De Beers’ Best Prac­tice Prin­ci­ples (BPPs) take care of the work­ers’ health and safety, labour stan­dards and work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. It was sup­ported by a rig­or­ous as­sur­ance pro­gramme that as­sessed com­pli­ance by all par­ties in­clud­ing sighthold­ers and sub-con­trac­tors. Min­ing com­pa­nies col­lab­o­rated on other ini­tia­tives to raise work­place health and safety, recruitmen­t and train­ing of work­ers in the di­a­mond in­dus­try, en­hanc­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity by de­vel­op­ing new tech­nol­ogy and spread­ing best busi­ness prac­tices, to­gether with con­tin­u­ous work­place safety and oc­cu­pa­tional health.

In­dian ini­tia­tives

Tak­ing a leaf out of these prac­tices, the Su­rat Di­a­mond As­so­ci­a­tion (SDA) es­tab­lished as a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion in 1988 with a mem­ber­ship of more than 2,400 work­ing to­wards the bet­ter­ment of the in­dus­try. Di­nesh Nava­dia, SDA pres­i­dent says, “We have un­der­taken a num­ber of ini­tia­tives, such as the Em­power ID pro­gramme to ad­dress

labour-re­lated is­sues in the SME sec­tor; dif­fer­ent sem­i­nars and fairs are held to in­crease aware­ness about rapidly chang­ing tech­nol­ogy and eco­nomic trends. We have or­gan­ised var­i­ous health camps and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes for the bet­ter­ment of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.” He fur­ther adds, “There are more than 5,000 ghan­ti­wala units (un­or­gan­ised, low-cost di­a­mond cut­ting units) out of which only 3,500 units are reg­is­tered with the min­istry of mi­cro, small and medium en­ter­prises. Still the ma­jor­ity of the in­dus­try is not or­gan­ised. We have taken up this ID pro­gramme in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Gem & Jew­ellery Ex­port Pro­mo­tion Coun­cil (GJEPC) and more than one lakh ID cards have been is­sued un­til now.”

At­tract­ing new tal­ent

The dia­man­taires are fac­ing an­other huge chal­lenge – that of at­tract­ing new tal­ent in the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try.

“There is an acute short­age of skilled labour in this in­dus­try. Kathi­awadi Pa­tels were the driv­ing force in the di­a­mond pol­ish­ing seg­ment. As time evolved, their life­style and so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions im­proved. Now they are look­ing for man­age­rial po­si­tions or lu­cra­tive jobs in other in­dus­tries. Pol­ish­ers’ wages have not kept pace with in­fla­tion. Peo­ple from other states have bet­ter em­ploy­ment op­tions in their home states, and Gu­jarat’s own in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment at­tracts em­ploy­ment in other sec­tors,” in­forms Ke­val Vi­rani of KARP. He adds, “We need to make col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts in as­so­ci­a­tion with trade or­gan­i­sa­tions to at­tract fresh tal­ent in the in­dus­try.”

A joint ini­tia­tive has been al­ready taken by the Dis­trict Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Agency (DRDA), the SDA and the GJEPC to train un­skilled tribal women to per­fect the art of cut­ting and pol­ish­ing pre­cious stones, so that they can get de­cent em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to earn a liveli­hood. Nava­dia states, “Young­sters are un­will­ing to take up cut­ting and pol­ish­ing jobs and a huge sec­tion of the present work­force is on the verge of re­tire­ment. The in­dus­try feels that there is an ur­gent need to train un­skilled ar­ti­sans from the ru­ral ar­eas to create more em­ploy­ment. We have ex­tended sup­port re­quired in

train­ing and giv­ing em­ploy­ment to the tribal women at their doorstep.”

In just seven months of ini­ti­at­ing this pro­gramme, the num­ber of tribal women tak­ing up di­a­mond cut­ting and pol­ish­ing in vil­lages of Tapi, Su­rat and Dang dis­tricts has in­creased al­most ten­fold. More than 130 units have been set up by small- and medium-scale di­a­mond man­u­fac­tur­ers from Su­rat in tribal ar­eas like Jhankhvav, Mandvi, Vankal, Ahwa, Dang and bor­der vil­lages of Nan­dur­bar in Ma­ha­rash­tra and Vansda, em­ploy­ing about 21,000 women. Tribal women are now pro­cess­ing R1,300 crore-worth of di­a­monds of small sizes ev­ery year; this has in­stilled a sense of pride and con­fi­dence in them.

Su­rat-based In­dian Di­a­mond In­sti­tute (IDI) is also work­ing to­wards at­tract­ing new tal­ent in the in­dus­try. The In­dian di­a­mond in­dus­try was a close-knit so­ci­ety and the gen­eral pub­lic was by and large un­aware about the growth and work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Thus, the IDI be­gan or­gan­is­ing ca­reer fairs to show­case the strength of the in­dus­try to school and col­lege stu­dents look­ing for bet­ter ca­reer op­tions. The govern­ment has also started a project called the Gems and Jew­ellery Skill Coun­cil of In­dia (GJSCI), which aims to create a work­force em­pow­ered with con­tin­u­ously up­graded skills, knowl­edge and qual­i­fi­ca­tions to en­sure In­dia’s com­pet­i­tive­ness in global gems and jew­ellery mar­ket. The IDI is team­ing up with the GJSCI to give sub­sidised train­ing pro­grammes with place­ment guar­an­tee to col­lege/school drop-outs.

Savji Dho­lakia, founder of Hari Kr­ishna Ex­ports Pvt. Ltd., says, “We are vis­ited by many stu­dents from ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions on work projects on the di­a­mond in­dus­try. They are awestruck with the progress and mod­ern ap­proach of the in­dus­try. They come with pre­con­ceived no­tions about the di­a­mond in­dus­try and think it still con­tin­ues as a cot­tage in­dus­try. But af­ter com­plet­ing their term with us, they are more in­clined to join the in­dus­try, which is run like a cor­po­rate firm.”

The di­a­mond in­dus­try is in a tran­si­tional phase and is no longer a fam­i­lyrun busi­ness where shar­ing the same last name meant guar­an­teed suc­ces­sion. In fact, today the in­dus­try is open to hir­ing peo­ple based on their qual­i­fi­ca­tions alone.

Dho­lakia adds, “We too are ea­ger

and open to ac­cept­ing this new class of ed­u­cated, tal­ented and pas­sion­ate em­ploy­ees. I per­son­ally feel that this new breed has the po­ten­tial to change the dy­nam­ics of pro­duc­tion and is ca­pa­ble of tak­ing us to the next level. At Hari Kr­ishna, we have al­ready started this process. I feel that higher salaries can at­tract the right tal­ent.”

Hari Kr­ishna Ex­ports be­lieves that cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity is its moral duty to­wards its em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies. The group has its own hos­pi­tal, sports fa­cil­i­ties, gym­na­sium, li­brary, au­di­to­rium, med­i­ta­tion cen­tre, and holds mo­ti­va­tion sem­i­nars reg­u­larly. Ev­ery year, a blood do­na­tion camp is or­gan­ised by the group. The com­pany also runs a recre­ational cen­tre for se­nior cit­i­zens and holds sem­i­nars for school­teach­ers, govern­ment em­ploy­ees and po­lice per­son­nel. The com­pany re­cently cre­ated an ar­ti­fi­cial lake spread over 17 acres in Dud­hala vil­lage in Saurash­tra, to store rain­wa­ter. As a re­sult, the vil­lage now has ad­e­quate sup­ply of wa­ter through­out the year. The col­lat­eral ben­e­fit of this project has been an in­crease in the sub­soil wa­ter level, which is con­tribut­ing to im­proved agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­ity.

Di­a­mond cut­ting is no longer la­belled as a blue-col­lar job. Today, the ghasiyas or pol­ish­ers are re­ferred to as di­a­mond en­gi­neers.

Ut­pal Mistry, CEO of Lexus Soft­mac In­dia, says, “Di­a­mond pol­ish­ers of In­dia are highly skilled work­ers and they de­serve re­spect. They are con­sid­ered the prized as­sets of the in­dus­try. At Lexus, we have changed the way di­a­monds are pol­ished. Our state-of-the-art pol­ish­ing wheels are set in cab­ins with com­put­ers at­tached to them. We want to at­tract the new gen­er­a­tion to en­ter into this won­der­ful busi­ness.”

In spite of hav­ing such a vast work­force in the di­a­mond in­dus­try, there are no labour unions. In gen­eral, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween man­age­ment and ar­ti­sans is cor­dial. Work­ers are treated like fam­ily, en­dorses di­a­mond cut­ter Babub­hai Dhamelia of Shree Ram Kr­ishna Ex­ports (SRK). “The com­pany pro­vides ex­cel­lent com­pen­sa­tion for hard work and in­vests a lot in train­ing us.”

Shar­ing the high­lights of his four­decade-long ex­pe­ri­ence in the di­a­mond in­dus­try, SRK founder chair­man Govind Dho­lakia says, “The se­cret of main­tain­ing an af­fec­tion­ate and warm re­la­tion­ship with ar­ti­sans is sim­ple. As dia­man­taires, we have

al­ways be­lieved in car­ing and shar­ing. Even in our early days when we had just started, it was com­mon prac­tice to share a meal with our em­ploy­ees – this tra­di­tion con­tin­ues to date.” SRK of­fers fa­cil­i­ties like bank­ing within the com­pany. Its em­ploy­ees can also buy house­hold prod­ucts at sub­sidised rates, avail of ve­hi­cle and amenity loans af­ter a year of ser­vice in the com­pany.

Dho­lakia fur­ther adds, “Em­ployee wel­fare is an es­sen­tial ac­tiv­ity to keep the morale of the em­ploy­ees high. If they are happy in the work­place, they stay com­mit­ted for life.”

Dhar­manan­dan Di­a­monds’ CSR ap­proach fo­cuses on ed­u­ca­tion, mo­ti­va­tion and en­cour­age­ment, health­care aware­ness, en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity and other so­ci­etal wel­fare pro­grammes. Hitesh Pa­tel, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Dhar­manan­dan, says, “We be­lieve that cut­ting and pol­ish­ing di­a­monds is a labour of love. The hu­man touch will re­main an in­te­gral part of the man­u­fac­tur­ing process, no mat­ter how au­to­mated the sys­tems get.”

Ki­ran Gems em­ploys more than 31,000 skilled pro­fes­sion­als who cut 5.7 mil­lion carats of rough di­a­monds an­nu­ally. Di­nesh Lakhani, di­rec­tor, Ki­ran Gems Pvt. Ltd., says, “Ki­ran Gems en­sures that its em­ploy­ees have pos­i­tive so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions so that they re­main healthy both men­tally and phys­i­cally. Ki­ran is known to have not down­sized its work­force even in the try­ing eco­nomic con­di­tions of 2008-09. This has helped Ki­ran earn enor­mous eq­uity from its em­ploy­ees.” Ac­cord­ing to him, the di­a­mond in­dus­try has come of age and is com­pa­ra­ble with var­i­ous in­dus­tries in terms of work en­vi­ron­ment, in­fra­struc­ture, com­pen­sa­tion and pro­fes­sional man­age­ment. Ki­ran Gems do­nates to var­i­ous char­i­ta­ble trusts that pro­vide med­i­cal and ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­i­ties. The com­pany’s HR poli­cies are based on the Best Prac­tice Prin­ci­ples.

Most of the big di­a­mond com­pa­nies have trusts through which they con­duct phil­an­thropic ac­tiv­i­ties. Many com­pa­nies ap­por­tion part of their prof­its to in­clude “god’s share” in their part­ner­ship un­der­stand­ings. This share is used gen­er­ously by dia­man­taires in fields of ed­u­ca­tion, health­care, em­ployee well­be­ing and so­cial up­lift­ment.

(Clock­wise from top left) A job fair or­gan­ised by the SDA in Mandvi; the SDA holds a sem­i­nar for trib­als in Dang; an am­bu­lance is avail­able 24/7 on the Hari Krishna Ex­ports cam­pus; ar­ti­sans bonding over meals at Hari Krishna Ex­ports’ can­teen. (Fac­ing...

The SDA reg­u­larly con­ducts med­i­cal check­ups for ar­ti­sans and their fam­i­lies. SAvji Dho­lakia Founder and Chair­man, Hari Krishna Ex­ports

Hari Krishna Ex­ports en­sures the phys­i­cal and men­tal well-be­ing of its em­ploy­ees.

Vas­ant Me­hta Chair­man, IIGJ Mum­bai and Di­rec­tor, Na­tional Skill De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NSDC) A state-of-the-art di­a­mond man­u­fa­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in Su­rat.

The stone plan­ning divi­sion at Ki­ran Gems. Di­nesh Lakhani Di­rec­tor, Ki­ran Gems Hitesh Pa­tel Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Dhar­manan­dan Di­a­monds

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