What is the one thing that is worrying you the most, as a businessman in these unprecedented times?
Getting artisans back to work as soon as lockdown is lifted is going to be a big challenge. Many have already gone back to their native places, and they may not return before the next 3-4 months, so it is indeed difficult to imagine how we will manage in their absence. Even if we open our stores, how will we deliver the finished products.
Inventory management is also a tough challenge. Manufacturers, based in Mumbai, Surat and Kolkata need to spring back in action so that retailers across the nation can function smoothly. Cash flow is relatively slow at present and therefore meeting all these challenges is tough and these are some of the top most things that are worrying almost all retailers across the country.
Cash flow is relatively slow at present and therefore meeting all these challenges is tough
What will be the immediate effect of the pandemic on gems and jewellery industry in India?
Many retailers will have to retain their customers, they will have to deal with people coming to sell gold as well. As this gold was purchased from us, in the past, we may need to honour our word and buy it back, since the seller is in need of funds. We too have been running on almost zero income for the past few months, only paying overheads – there is a cash crunch for us as well. The immediate effect on the industry will be inequality between demand and supply and a severe cash deficit.
We too have been running on almost zero income for the past few months, only paying overheads – there is a cash crunch for us as well
Will online buying of gold be a solution?
The thing is whatever be the mode of selling online or offline, if we have about 25 kilos of gold in the store in the form of various ornaments and we manage to sell it off, then what? The manufacturers in Mumbai, Surat, Kolkata and other places have to begin their operations – without which we cannot retain unhindered supply in our stores. If are not able to supply finished products in time, what do we do, even after opening our stores?
What are the hindrances in offline buying, once the stores open?
Many buyers will be scared of touching the ornaments, we can provide them with sanitsers, gloves, etc all the same we as store owners are also exposed to the risk of infection, because we do not know if a certain customer is infected or a silent carrier of the virus. These are concerns which will cause fear in the minds of all people who are involved in trade. It will take time for these fears to subside.
How do you think consumers’ preferences in jewellery will change after Covid-19?
I don’t think there will be any considerable change in preferences, because jewellery buying in India has a tradition – people will buy a certain type of necklace, or bangle, or earrings, or other ornaments, they usually cater to the demands which are backed by a tradition. They may, however, prefer light weight jewellery because of higher cost of gold.
What is one leadership lesson this pandemic has taught you?
The one lesson that this pandemic teaches me, is to remain calm. Observe patience. Many customers may come in to sell their old gold, because they need money to meet their personal requirements. It is going to be difficult for jewellers also, to turn away such customers or to even shell out the cash for buying their gold. As a store owner I will have to exhibit patience and composure throughout all my dealings, with customers, suppliers, my own staff and in fact everyone --- because each one is going through a challenging situation.
A lot of jewellers are worried about paying staff salaries without any business income and even shutting down their businesses. What would you like to say to them?
Jewellers need to rely on savings – they have earned in the past for many years. It is important to infuse the business with funds from some personal savings – basic overheads can be met from these sources. Later on, as soon as markets open they can meet their revenue expenses through sales and when things return to normal they can recover their lost savings.