Having embarked on an ambitious expansion plan, Malabar Gold and Diamonds is adopting a multi-pronged approach to achieve its objective of becoming the top jewellery retailer of the world, Chairman M P Ahammed tells Suneeta Kaul in a free-wheeling conversation
An Indian brand, planning to become the world’s number one jewellery group – that is how M P Ahammed, Chairman, Malabar Group, describes his company, Malabar Gold and Diamonds. There’s a lot more he has to say. “The core mission of Malabar Group is to make products in India and market them around the world. This quest continues to strengthen our brand proposition, as well as the aspirational value of Indian jewellery in global markets,” he states.
The expansion strategy
The quiet confidence does not seem to be misplaced. Malabar’s expansion plans for the year 2023 are fairly impressive. “Our global showroom count currently stands at 307. In 2023, we have plans to open 68 showrooms. We have set up showrooms in the US and the Middle East, and are planning to launch outlets in Australia, UK, Canada, Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh and South Africa. This is in line with our goal to become the largest jewellery retailer in the world by 2030,” says Ahammed.
But the Malabar story is not just about opening showrooms at breakneck speed. The company has a holistic approach to jewellery, which encompasses backward and forward integration. The setting up of the manufacturing and refining facility in Telangana is a case in point. The facility is strategically located at General Park, Maheshwaram, in the Rangareddy district, and is spread over 3.7 acres. It has a capacity to manufacture 10 tonnes of gold jewellery and 1.5 lakh carats of diamond jewellery annually. The state-of-the-art gold refinery has an annual capacity of 180 tonnes.
“The facility will help to roll out a diverse range of jewellery, including gold, diamonds, precious gemstones, platinum and uncut diamonds. It is equipped with CNC machining, and the latest technology-enabled chain making machines and laser cut machines, in collaboration with industry experts from Italy, US and Germany,” Ahammed explains. In addition to this, Malabar has also set up 15 manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh, Qatar, Dubai, Sharjah and Bahrain.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the Group, Malabar has also launched an integrated jewellery unit and design studio in Kakkancherry, Kerala. Set up with an investment of Rs 250 crore, it is spread over 1.75 lakh sq.ft. “It is an advanced manufacturing unit, equipped with the latest technologies and facilities. Currently, around 600 people are employed in different sections in this unit. Once fully operational, it will offer employment to more than 1000 people, including 250 women employees. Thanks to the new facility, we'll be able to offer new design innovations to our customers, further enhance our design narrative, and elevate our design leadership in India, and around the world,” declares Ahammed.
Keeping up with the times
Established in 1993, in Kozhikode, Kerala, Malabar is a household name in the gold-crazy state. As per the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), Kerala has the highest monthly per capita expenditure on gold ornaments among all Indian states. And Malabar has been a leading provider of traditional, heavyweight wedding jewellery in the state.
While the company’s focus on traditional jewellery continues, it has taken several steps to diversify its design base, and today, it offers jewellery catering to the tastes of all segments and all age groups. “New-age designs have become an integral part of all our jewellery categories,” says Ahammed, adding, “There are a number of customers who seek innovative and contemporary design elements. Modern shapes and designs in lightweight jewellery are in vogue. We cater to all sections of customers, as our product strategy is quite diversified and broad-based. Having said that, we also have been rolling out creations for the customers who prefer distinctive designs that set them apart.”
The Malabar omnichannel policy
While most jewellery companies strengthened their omnichannel strategy because of the pandemic, Malabar already had its online ventures in place well before COVID necessitated such a foray. Says Ahammed, “We launched our online shopping store long before the pandemic. Our online sales revenue was already strong in the pre-pandemic phase. We began showcasing more designs in the pandemic and post-pandemic phase, as design discovery has become common online. It has become evident that a new consumer segment is emerging that is open to experimentation.”
As part of its omnichannel strategy, Malabar has introduced an online section on its website, called Discover Our New Design, which features jewellery in various price bands. The aim is to entice customers to try the jewellery in person. “Our focus has always been on strengthening our omnichannel retail strategy, as more and more people are going online for design discovery and for initial decision-making,” adds Ahammed.
Looking ahead, Malabar plans to generate more employment and take its headcount to one lakh by 2030 – it already has an employee count of 20,000. It also aims to increase the number of showrooms to 500 across all key markets by 2025. And from the look of things, the company is well-set on the path of becoming the world’s largest retailer of gold and diamond jewellery.