MEHUL Choksi, chairman of the Mumbai-based Gitanjali group, recently procured a new machine ,which has changed the way gold jewellery is retailed. “It uses a computer programme, which assists our customers to design jewellery for themselves or make changes in the existing designs that can be replicated by us,” Choksi says. As India’s top jeweller, he can’t take a chance. The demand for gems and jewellery is growing at a fast pace and anyone who is technologically-challenged is likely to lose out.
With the increase in demand for designed jewellery abroad, Indian jewellers have seen a huge image makeover — from an old shop owner in Zaveri Bazaar in Mumbai to an industrialist in the SEEPZ industrial area of the city, most cater not only to the domestic market, but also export to several countries.
The Rs 3,500-crore Gitanjali group, which owns several leading jewellery brands like D’damas, Nakshatra and Asmi and is one of the biggest groups in the organised gems and jewellery industry in the country, has already reaped the benefits of usage of technology in the jewellery industry. “We have been using all the technologies in the jewellery industry, which are on par with international standards,” says Choksi.
These changes can be traced back when CADCAM machines entered Indian markets about a decade ago, say exporters. “With the help of a CADCAM software, one can design the jewellery with geometrical perfection. And once the design is finished the exact cost of the jewellery and the weight of the jewellery can also be determined through the software,” explains KD Desai, director of technical services at the Livingstone group. The firm provides consultancy services to local jewellery manufacturers and is also into manufacturing of jewellery.
The gems and jewellery industry has come a long way from the time it forayed into the world market in the 1980s. Now more businessmen are trooping in with innovation in existing technology, with an aim to improve quality and reduce cost of production. According to industrial experts, a 3 kg batch (which can generate around 350 pieces of a jewellery item like a gold ring or a gold pendent of approximately 5 to 10 gm each) of gold jewellery can be produced using mass production methods at one go. Says Uday Nanavati, director, Ace Jewels, “At Ace Jewels, we have a two-pronged strategy; using the same technology for new applications and improving the existing technology.” Ace Jewels produces a range of high-end diamond studded gold jewellery with titanium as an additional alloy. “We use titanium in our jewellery as it is better than using silver or steel. Though platinum can be used, it would be very expensive,” adds Nanavati.
Laser machines, which are now used at every gems and jewellery factory, have been put to an “innovative” use at Ace Jewels. Says Nanavati, “Normally there is one laser machine or laser head and one workstation. But with the help of the machine manufacturer we have worked out a system where there is one laser head but three work stations at Ace Jewels, resulting in the increased capacity at marginally higher cost.” This arrangement also helps save electricity. Manufacturers have also started using lost wax investment casting, which allows them to make designs of jewellery with more details but is cheaper as it is lighter (hollow jewellery).
There are around 400 factories in Mumbai alone (most of them in SEEPZ) which manufacture gems and jewellery. According to manufacturers about 90% of the total production is exported. “The growth rate in the gems and jewellery segment has been 15% for the past couple of years, though this year it was around 3%. The Indian gems and jewellery has a 10% marketshare in the total international gems and jewellery market, and we are working towards increasing it,” says Sanjay Kothari of the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC). Currently, the US, Hong Kong and UAE are the top export markets, apart from the UK, Switzerland and Australia. And technology is said to be a key reason for the success of Indian manufacturers globally: “We were the first to purchase assaying machine, which checks the purity of jewellery. There are certain purity standards that are required if one intends to export gold jewellery,” adds Desai.
But not all small manufacturers are eyeing foreign markets. Says Anand Shah of Ansaa Jewellers, “We have been using local machines and are targeting local customers at Zaveri Bazaar. We manufacture standardised screws and clips used in jewellery.”