Tete-A-Tete With Shri Praveen Shankar Pandya
This has been one of the most interesting and interactive interviews in a very long time. Seated on his work-desk sorting diamonds on a rainy Saturday afternoon, Mr. Praveen Shankar Pandya Ji, Chairman Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), not only educated us but also opened our eyes in very many ways with insights in the gems and jewelry industry. He is the Director of Shankar Group of Industries, which includes Revashankar Gems Ltd; Shankar Jewels Ltd; Shan Gold Ltd; Naqsh; Shankar Packaging Ltd and Shankar Realty Pvt. Ltd.
StylePrer (SP)- How do you describe the journey of GJEPC in its 50th year since inception?
Praveen Shankar Pandya ji (PSP)- It has been a unique story, way back moreover from 1970. Products from the jewelry industry of India wasn’t significant in the world markets. Diamond exports was approx. 35cr then and now a staggering 1,35,000cr. Israel, Belgium and Amsterdam were the only diamond cutting centers. India was questioned as a diamond-cutting center. India increased its knowledge of turning near gem into gem quality diamond, while the other countries were turning gem into gem quality. Earlier there was strict control on the imports with various formalities and importing via MMTC. To do business and for instance getting forex was tough. I salute people in that era that made things systemic and went into building business for India. Diamonds then was a vertical available to the rich and famous, and now a democratization of diamonds has been achieved which makes it available to various segments of people. Raw materials weren’t easily available. A combination of manufacturing, selling and marketing has kept the industry in India going. Similarly in gemstones, Jaipur was a center that was successful in gem cutting. It started with Emerald cutting and then into semi-precious and now most of the gemstones i.e. precious and semiprecious. Jaipur offers jobs to over 3,00,000 people and is the largest gem cutting center in the world. That became a laurel for us.
Unfortunately until 1992 the gold control act kept the industry underground. Imagine one unable to keep gold beyond 10gms and how one could run a factory that required gold worth millions. Eventually post 1992 gold for export could be traded as a free commodity, which grew avenues for the jewelry industry. Today we probably export worth 47,000 Cr as compared to China at 1,20,000cr. We target being number 1 in the next 5 years. To attain the same we have to reform many things in the industry. We have all the capabilities in the industry, but one has to have the mindset and the infrastructure for exports. We seem to be so satisfied in the domestic market that we don’t want to graduate to the next level, as this level is acceptable to the Indian clients.
SP- In the recent jewelers meeting with the PM Shri Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhavan, he mentioned indian jewelers are sufficed with selling in the Indian markets and are not looking at the international markets. How could the council help in promoting the indian artisans, craftsman and designers to promote themselves overseas?
PSP- If you want to sell something you produce, you may not necessarily be able to sell. You need to have the capability to produce something the customer overseas wants to buy. Internationally consumers may not want to buy the Indian bridal jewelry or jewelry with hi polishes or shines. Their taste is very different. For instance, the American market is different from Europe in terms of design, diamond quality, finish along with other factors. I am trying to create a mindset for the jewelers in India to create an infrastructure. I have requested the council and taken upon to build few jewelry parks where all the facilities, clearances are given under one roof. Further extend these facilities for creating an institute of gems and jewelry. Once the jewelry parks are ready, things will fall in place and we believe people will open up to the world markets. We have requested the same in the meeting with the Prime Minister.
SP- The Prime Minister in the same meeting also mentioned of an institute for skilled labor in Baroda. Is gjepc taking measures to associate with them in any way ?
PSP- We have requested and written to the Prime Minister for a full fledge gems and jewelry university. We have tied up with the Mewar university and IIGJ conducts skilled courses. We may associate with Baroda university. Likewise Bombay university is offering to associate so a gem and jewelry university may open at an apt time. We will probably define a course soon on the same where theory is taken up by another university and the technical part is defined by us.
SP- We feel today’s youngsters don’t tend to have a vision of their own. They often tend to join their family business because it’s a family tradition. As a council how can a platform be be given to the youngsters where they take a step forward and pursue their dreams?PSP- In my opinion you may be right, many youngsters don’t tend to have that vision and we have been promoting youngsters in every possible way. If they are alert they will know, where they can get involved. At IIGJ we are training future managers. Recently a Design Inspirations and Trend Forecast Forum was held with leading designers and eminent personalities from India, Italy, Usa shared their knowledge. Designers must look upto that. At IIGJ the manufacturing batch has special lectures from manufacturers in Germany for training in fine jewelry and building their business. We are in process of making a space for innovative designers to showcase their collection in IIJS which may be available from next year.
“We can give the designers a platform, however we can’t make them entrepreneurs”.
SP- Lakme fashion week recently had collections which revived thedying art by artisans from Banaras. How can we revive the dying art in the jewelry industry?
PSP- Incidentally we are planning to open an institute in Banaras. We want to revive the Pink Meenakari and give the karigars training for modern technology. The methods used in eastern Uttar Pradesh are centuries old. A combination of modern art, modern knowledge along with their traditional skills is required. The blend may work well over a period of time.
SP- Usually when walks into a jewelry store, some jewellers tend to associate is as a commodity, so the essence of jewelry as a form of luxury is lost? Please opine?
PSP- Jewelry is a available as luxury, fashion and commodity. Customers buy Gold as a commodity and sometimes large size diamonds as an investment. Jewelry is considered an investment in india will always remain. Its also a form of security for many in the country. For instance if a farmer has a great harvest in a particular year, he most likely will purchase gold. When in crisis the same gold will be sold of to meet his needs, buy crops and even run his family. We need to have a gold policy so domestic gold is brought back and import is reduced. The govt has offered crop insurance which is very good, in the long run it will yield great results. Hence in a long run the gold as a commodity will reduce.
Now jewelry as a commodity, there are 2 aspects i.e. fashion jewelry and jewelry as an investment. Fashion jewelry is something we wear day to day. Bridal jewelry has great finesse, is an investment and a form luxury.
StylePrer gives a shout to the young budding jewelry designers. Here’s your opportunity to make your dreams come true. When a council and an association supports like a pillar, every “Impossible” only turns into being “Possible”