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14 may 2018

joy_alukkas_xx.jpgJoy Alukkas started his first jewellery showroom in UAE in the year 1987, and today the Joyalukkas Group is a multi-billion global conglomerate with varied business interests. Beginning with a single jewellery room in Abu Dhabi, Joy Alukkas has grown the Group to a 140 plus jewellery showroom chain, spread across 11 countries around the world, including India, USA, UK, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia, there is no stopping Joy Alukkas, who is called 'Man with the Midas Touch'.

Touching the lives of millions of people worldwide, brand ‘Joyalukkas’ has become a household name across the globe, thanks to his vision and commitment to excel and constantly innovate. He had the foresight to open the world’s largest showroom at Chennai in South India, considered the jewellery hub of India.

Seemingly untouched by the phenomenal success of his Group, Joy Alukkas continues here, explaining the journey from where he left off in his last Q&A session with ROUGH &POLISHED.

Some excerpts:

How did the Joyalukkas Group perform financially during the year 2017? In which country did the Group’s turnover peak; and what growth do you look forward to in the year 2018?

2017 was a year of fast-paced growth for Joyalukkas, spurred by an unprecedented number of new Jewellery showroom openings and promotions. We also saw an increase in turnover in spite of the unfavourable market conditions. Historically the UAE and India have always been where our turnover peaks, but our newest market, USA, and the 8 other countries we operate in are not too far behind. Work is underway to extend our network further with new showrooms in addition to new branded items and collections to our portfolio, as well as our online store. So we see both our number of locations and turnover rate continuing to rise in 2018 and beyond.

What additions have taken place in terms of expansion with India as well as overseas since 2015, when you last spoke to us? Is there any more expansion plans in the future? Details, please.

Our massive expansion plans begun in 2015 is going ahead as scheduled. This has seen us enter the USA, opening showrooms in Houston, New Jersey and Chicago just a few weeks apart. We’re also averaging around one new showroom every six months in the GCC region and almost one new showroom every quarter in India. We began with 110 showrooms in 2015, we are currently at 140 and still, growth will be more aggressive in 2018, especially in India.

We have recently launched Mission 2020, which is my vision to ornament the world come to fruition. In celebration of 20 years of Brand Joyalukkas, we aim to grow from 140 showrooms in 11 countries to 220 showrooms in 12 countries by the year 2020, along with a target $3 billion in turnover. So the next two years will be very busy and exciting for us.

With the Middle East being a growth area, what has your group achieved in the last 2 years? Dubai too is turning into a trading hub with many jewellers/banks etc. establishing a business there. What changes do you see in the sector in terms of competition? Your comments.

We pride ourselves in setting new standards in the Jewellery retail industry, especially in the GCC. In the last 2 years, we have implemented new systems and processes that offer more transparency and assures the customers that what they are getting from our showrooms is the best the world has to offer, be it in products or services.

In this business, being in tune with customer requirements is key to staying ahead. This is no longer the time to be looking at what your neighbour is doing and copying what works. The focus should simply be on the customer, offering them the designs they seek, the quality they want and the added value they deserve. At Joyalukkas this principle has resulted in new brands catering to more contemporary tastes at more affordable price points and an e-commerce function on our website, as well as the introduction of a CRM facility so we can get customer feedback and/or respond to their queries in a direct and timely manner, etc. We expect any changes in the industry and amongst our competitors to be along the same lines.

What transformations have happened in jewellery demand in the past few years in UAE, in terms of diamond, gold content, design etc.?

Not only in the UAE but around the globe, customer buying behaviour has changed significantly. In my opinion, the economic depression of the late 2000s is largely the cause, with shoppers now more prudent about their purchases, seeking as much information as they can before shelling out the cash. We’re also seeing a big change in terms of tastes. Diamonds and fine Jewellery, for example, were traditionally gift items or wedding ornaments – definitely something you would wear only for a special occasion. But we’re now seeing customers who buy these for themselves, preferable to be worn every day. Today’s Jewellery shoppers tend to buy pieces based on how they can express their personality, whether it’s 22K gold and diamonds or 18K and enamel. Unique designs and quality materials are now the deciding factors for most buyers.

I recall it was your plan to enter the US market way back in 2015. What is the status of that initiative? Also, now that you have entered Singapore, what are your views on the Singapore market?

We opened our first USA showroom in Houston in Q4 2016, quickly followed by New Jersey and Chicago in early 2017. I am quite happy to say that all three showrooms received a warm welcome and are doing well in terms of sales and footfall one year on.

Singapore is an exciting market, and we recently opened a second showroom at the heart of Little India, where the sizable expat community is enjoying the added convenience of having us practically at their doorstep. Jewellery retail in Singapore is unique as it is a more brand-conscious economy, so fashion and luxury brands with a Jewellery offering are the more obvious choice. However, shoppers are now gravitating towards unique, bespoke and handcrafted Jewellery and are willing to shop around, even at emerging brands, until they find what they want.

With an extensive presence in UAE as well as India, what difference in growth have you witnessed over the years? And in Jewellery demand, what changes are seen in both the markets as in design, diamond content etc.? Your comments.

As mentioned earlier, the changes we’re currently seeing are not specific to the UAE or India, they’re happening worldwide. However, it is interesting to note that even the Indian market, a largely traditional and gold-led market is experiencing these changes as well. A new generation of shoppers is coming of age, choosing and buying their Jewellery themselves, so we’re seeing more youthful, trendy choices in designs as well as materials. Where 22K gold was the norm, there is now a growing market for 18K gold Jewellery in three tones, not just the ubiquitous yellow. Diamonds, as well, are also shifting from occasional to daily wear.

At Joyalukkas we are keeping pace with these changes. We recently launched an 18K gold Jewellery collection as well as 7 Wonders, diamond necklace sets for everyday wear. New brands are also in the works, including one targeted at teens and a contemporary collection inspired by natural forms and patterns.     

After the PNB fraud, media reports made the round that diamond Jewellery was studded with synthetics and CZs. Has this affected your group's sales of diamond Jewellery in any way in India or elsewhere? Or is your Group's reputation strong enough to retain consumer trust in your diamond Jewellery? Your views...

Joyalukkas is known as the world’s favourite jeweller, building on a reputation of excellence and trust. We were the first Jewellery retailer to be awarded both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications. We also have purity testing machines in every showroom and use only IGI/GIA certified diamonds in our collections. So our loyal customers know that the Joyalukkas name is an assurance of quality, and such rumours would not stop them from coming to us to fulfil their Jewellery requirements.

What are your current views on the Indian gem and jewellery sector? What steps do you think should be taken to strengthen the industry going forward? And in what way should the government help the industry, which is still unorganized?

As one of the drivers of the Indian economy, the gem and Jewellery sector is vibrant and ever growing. We praise the recent decision of the government to declare the sector as a focus area for export promotion. Joyalukkas offers its full support and looks forward to the promised new investments and technological upgrades that are sure to push the industry to even greater heights.

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