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07 may 2018

nitin_khandelwal_xx.jpgComing from a renowned family of jewellers based in Akola, Maharashtra, Nitin Khandelwal heads Khandelwal Jewellers (Akola) Pvt Ltd. He has interests in the Plastic industry, Real estate, Health & Recreation and Cold storage industries as well.

Nitin Khandelwal was elected Chairman of GJC in 2017 but was associated with the organisation from inception as a torchbearer for various projects initiated by GJC.

As an extrovert and a workaholic, Khandelwal's leadership skills, ability to multitask, stickler for punctuality and similar fine qualities has him 'donning many hats' effortless.

Here in a Q&A session with Rough & Polished, Nitin Khandelwal speaks on all things he's passionate about... with elan!

Excerpts:

Was hailing from a well-known jeweller's family that led you to get actively associated with GJC right from its inception or was it an innate urge to lead, organise and initiate projects for the betterment of the jewellery industry? I understand that you have business interests in other industries as well. Must be tough organising time...

Having a strong jewellery business background could be one reason but coming from a small town could be the prime reason that pulled me to GJC (erstwhile GJF). Moreover, it inspires any small town jewellers to join an organisation like GJC which represents the entire gems & jeweller community with the intent to tackle and address the hurdles and glitches in the trade. Besides, as a businessman, I always got drawn and worked like a lone soldier for the welfare of the trade and now being part of GJC in the capacity of Chairman provides me further strength and courage to fight for the cause of the industry as a Major of a Battalion.

The founders of GJC had only one thing in their mind - to make sure that trade doesn’t suffer, so I have considered our Past Chairmen as my mentors and there is always a learning in every aspect. I’m just continuing the legacy of the GJC by proceeding with the already undertaken mission of our founders to establish a trade environment in the country which is transparent and compliant. There is still a lot to be achieved and accomplished, however, recently GST, PMLA are some of the biggest achievement of GJC which has really increased my urge to serve even more for the Industry. Today I have designed my time in such a way that I’m able to do justice both towards my business and Industry.

GJC team has initiated various projects for the Indian gems and jewellery industry. The 'Preferred Manufacturer of India' executed by you has definitely made a mark. For the benefit of our readers, can you walk us through the initiatives, and how they transformed the domestic jewellery industry in particular?

I have been the torch bearer of many GJF projects, but PMI is very close to my heart. Moreover, it is our flagship programme since it is one of the very few trade shows in the country which is being conducted on a heart to heart basis. We have been able to build a fine platform where the buyers and sellers get maximum time to understand each other. Moreover, PMI is not just a display place but more of a networking podium in a relaxed and leisure environment with a personal touch. PMI is a luxury podium where the sellers and buyers discuss business over lunch, dinner or during a cocktail.

Today I think there is a need to evolve PMI as a model for doing business through the exhibition as it beats all odds and builds stronger bond amongst the buyer and seller. Moreover, I feel that PMI has completely transformed the domestic trade. This could be elucidated by the fact that today the jewellers from tier 2 and tier 3 cities who were unable to enter the large wholesale and manufacturers offices have got easy access points through PMI.

'Mathan' was your brain-child, one-of-a-kind, a never thought-of idea in the Indian Gem and Jewellery industry. While the event was well-received by all, what you feel was the main 'takeaway' for all participants at the event? Your thoughts...

Manthan, as the name goes, is to churn the sea in order to extract the elixir of intelligence, innovation and contemporaneousness in the gems & jewellery industry. The concept was going on in my mind for quite a long time because I did similar to this at Rotary. Besides, I felt that there is a need to do a brainstorming conclave as such activities had never happened in G&J Industry. So when I became the Chairman, I shared the idea with the COA and it was overwhelmingly welcomed and guided by entire COA.

With the professional help and the wholehearted support of entire industry, we created this programme and gave the responsibility to Shri Manoj Jha to convene this challenging activity. He took it in a very positive spirit with the guidance of Shri Ashok Minawala and I can’t stop myself to thank my idol Shri Ashok Minawala for his inspiring guidance for the entire programme and the result is before everyone.

Moreover, the support from the entire committee and COA got the right balance of subjects and speakers. Now coming to the outcome, the takeaways may vary from person to person since every individual had come to take something there. As far as I’m concerned, I can say that there were many takeaways and the most thing that enjoyed is the ideas and insights shared by new speakers from other industries and this has made Manthan a great success.

Again, for our readers benefit, can you recall the many industry representations to the Indian government that you were part of in GJC delegation and the eventual results that benefitted the jewellery industry on the whole? Your comments.

I have been part of most of the representations that we have made to the government. We have made the first representation on Excise in 2005 and thereafter we have made several representations on many issues like GST, Hallmarking and PMLA in recent times. As a team member, I can proudly say that we have tried to address these issues by becoming the perfect bridge between the trade and the government. Moreover, it is a great privilege for me to be a part of the delegation which was able to convince the government on multiple issues and made things easy for the industry. GJC has played a crucial role in the last 10 years in improving the compliance level in the industry so all in all we have tried to bring the trade closer to the government.

To educate the jewellers on issues connected with GST, to help jewellers become compliant and organised, GJC organised many GST seminars, webinars and help desk. How useful were they for the domestic jewellery sector? Are the industry members now utilising the knowledge imparted to them in their business?

The moment government formulated GST guidelines and came out with the draft rules, GJC came into action, first taking advice from top consultants of the country and then we started understanding the minute details of the new laws. Then we started giving our inputs and worked closely with the government so that G&J industry does not face any problem in adapting to the new tax regime.

We have met all Finance Minister and GST Council of each states. Here, I would like to give credit to the state governments which were equally proactive in listening to our issues and were ready to adopt the practical and implementable suggestions of trade. Today I can proudly say GJC was the first industry which accepted GST wholeheartedly and today we are easily able to comply with the new reforms in a positive manner. I am really thankful to my brothers in the industry who accepted the new norms and adopted the new reform in a very positive manner.

Over the years, GJC was instrumental in representing many issues faced by the domestic industry regarding Central Excise duties, Hallmarking, Pan Card and many others. Has the Indian Government looked into the issues and solved any of the problems that made 'doing business' a hassle for the jewellers?

As I expressed earlier, we are really thankful to the government that they have accepted all the implementable recommendation made by us. We were successful in pointing out the barriers in the trade and the government tried to remove all the bottlenecks for creating an ease of doing the business environment. However, it is an ongoing process, there are still few points on which we are working to make trade functioning smoother and better.

It's true a few 'bad apples' cannot spoil the whole basket; and the Indian gem and jewellery industry too is showing immense confidence in growing their industry after the PNB scam. But, do you feel that reports of synthetics and CZs being used will badly hit demand for diamond studded jewellery in India? What steps do you suggest to bring back consumer confidence in the country?

You yourself have answered the question. A few bad apples cannot spoil the entire basket. GJC is known for its credibility and we will not compromise on our fundamentals at any cost. We will make sure that consumer confidence does not dip due to few bad apples. Moreover, I feel that Indian consumer has a unique relationship with their jewellers and this relationship goes beyond trust. They know and understand who is right and they do business diligently. Our banks today are in a tiff. We understand their position and shall try our best to bring about more synergy between them and the industry. It is a matter of time as things will fall into the right perspective.

Wrapping up, what is your opinion on the current situation in the gem and jewellery in the country? Demand for jewellery per se has reported been negatively affected, especially in the domestic sector. The recent festivals did not see much excitement among buyers. Do you see the industry getting over the present hurdles and returning to a healthy industry, going forward?

We are going through some of the biggest reforms in this country one after the other that too in a small duration of one and a half year. First was the excise then demonetization came and finally GST, these reforms were needed but they took a toll on us and the economy. The confidence was initially shaken across all the industries and hence kept the consumer little away from jewellery sector. Over a few months, the reforms were accepted by all and things normalized. We now see and envisage sustainability and a fair growth in the jewellery industry. We don’t see any reason for the downfall once the reforms are absorbed well by the industry.

Aruna Gaitonde, Editor in Chief of the Asian Bureau, Rough & Polished