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The Strategy Committee of ALROSA Supervisory Board recommends downward revision of 2020 production guidance

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IDE opens trading floor after two months

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De Beers gets licence to close Snap Lake mine

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TaTe Diamonds - a Namibian diamond company specialized in Namibian rough

27 april 2020

taShi_Shiimi_ya_Shiimi_xxz.pngArmed with degrees in Economics and Commerce and an MBA - specialized in Strategic Planning & Business Development, taShi Shiimi-ya-Shiimi is an executive, possessing many years of global experience in Information Technology and Strategic Management.

As Managing Director of TaTe, his primary focus is centered on growing and diversifying TaTe Group’s portfolio. The company’s current holdings span a wide array of industries and include interests in the following sectors like Diamond: Rough Trading & Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Information Technology and Real Estate.

In this interview with Rough&Polished, taShi Shiimi-ya-Shiimi spells out his goals for TaTe Diamonds, which he aims to grow into a fully integrated organisation, right from mining to retail.

Please give us an overview of TaTe Diamonds’ history, its growth graph and present position as a leading diamond company in Namibia.

In April 2019, TaTe Diamonds made history by securing the unique status of becoming a NAMDIA Client. This phenomenal achievement confirmed TaTe Diamonds as the ONLY Namibia-owned company selected from 76 international diamond companies to become one of the fifteen NAMDIA clients. The other 14 clients are all international companies, three of which have subsidiaries in Namibia.

This achievement has been the culmination of over 7 years of hard work and persistence in the diamond industry.

I entered the diamond industry in 2011 and partnered with a Belgium-based company to set up Diminco Diamonds Namibia. As partner and CEO of Diminco Diamonds, I steered the company towards successfully achieving a Namibia Diamond Trading Company Sightholder status. This partnership, however, came to an end in 2014 and I ventured off to set up TaTe Diamonds.

The diamond industry is highly regulated in Namibia and it took us several years to secure all the regulatory licenses and permissions to allow business operations to commence. These challenges were further exacerbated by the fact that as the sole shareholder in the business, I had to bear all the capital and costs required to set up the business. Regrettably, the Namibian banking sector does not offer credit or lending facilities to the diamond industry.

My vision is for TaTe Diamonds to become the first Namibia-owned vertically integrated diamond company. We want to have a presence across the entire diamond pipeline, i.e. sourcing of rough diamonds, cutting and polishing of our diamonds, jewelry manufacturing, and ultimately retailing of our polished diamonds in global centers like New York, Hong Kong and Paris.

From where do TaTe Diamonds source its rough diamond requirements? How do you plan your requirements for rough diamonds, if sourcing from multiple sources?

Namibia is world-renowned for its gem-quality natural diamonds which has resulted in an insatiable global demand for Namibian rough diamonds. The key component for a diamond company to succeed is to have a consistent supply of the right type of rough diamonds. TaTe diamonds has achieved this by becoming a NAMDIA client. Our rough diamond requirements are primarily driven by our target market demand.

Our rough diamonds cover a broad range but generally range in size from 1 carat up to +10.8 carats with about 75% of our goods falling in the 1-to-5-carat range — all gem-quality goods.

Since our vision is to build a Namibian diamond company which specializes in Namibian rough diamonds, we only source gem-quality Namibian diamonds from NAMDIA. Provenance and traceability of our diamonds is a cornerstone of our business model with the ultimate goal of maintaining our customer’s trust.

What’s the plan for the future? Having secured NAMDIA client status, our goal is to grow our existing allocation and seek additional rough source supply. We are actively involved in securing an additional source of rough supply but can unfortunately not divulge any information on that at this point.

Does TaTe Diamond export polished diamond as well as diamond jewelry? In which countries do you have your presence currently? And, what is the demand situation in those countries?

We don’t have a presence in the jewelry sector yet. We are working towards developing a presence here, but this is probably about 2 years out still.

Currently, Namibia is our only operational base. I am in the US as we speak working on establishing jewelry and other strategic partners here to develop a presence in the US. Needless to say, the global pandemic has all but stopped these initiatives.

Do you supply TaTe’s produce to the local market as well? What kind of goods moves well in Namibia?

Unfortunately, due to Namibia’s population size, we do not offer any products to the local market.

Since our independence in 1990, we have seen a steady increase in the appetite for luxury consumer goods as more Namibians are included in the mainstream economy. I expect the demand for diamond jewelry to increase steadily over the next 5 years.

How are diamonds per se viewed in Namibia - as an investment or pieces to be enjoyed? What are your marketing strategies?

Besides the formerly economically privileged minority groups in Namibia, diamonds are still not viewed as a solid investment asset. Bear in mind, that until very recently, the majority of the Namibian population was excluded from participating in the formal economy and as such wealth building and investing is still in its early stages for the majority.

Diamonds and other luxury goods are however being consumed more and more by Namibians as the middle class expands, albeit at a very slow rate. 

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Due to lab-grown diamonds, the natural diamond sector has been affected globally. What are your views on LGDs. Do you see both the sectors survive amicably?

Being a diamantaire from a natural diamond producing country (i.e., Namibia), I might be slightly biased in my response.

Natural diamonds were formed millions of years ago in the core of mother earth and as such represent the utmost beauty and perfection of mother nature. Natural diamonds remain one of nature’s most precious gift to mankind and as such, it is my sincere opinion that there is no substitute for such treasure of nature. The allure and mystic that comes with this gift of nature is something LGDs will never be able to capture.

Having said this LGDs have their place in the market and my view will continue to serve a different segment of the market. If all LGDs are traded similarly to the De Beers’ Lightbox model where they are fully classified as LGDs and trade at the set prices, then the two could potentially co-exist. Problems arise when LGDs are purported to be natural as this could potentially harm consumer confidence in the industry

To this end differentiation between LGDs and natural diamonds is the key. Research has shown that while consumers will not mind wearing LGD jewelry as everyday accessories, they still prefer natural diamonds for the most precious and special moments such as weddings, the birth of a child, anniversaries etc.

I believe that natural diamonds have a powerful story to tell in terms of the good that diamonds do for diamond producing countries like Namibia and more work needs to be done to ensure that these stories reach the consumers. I believe that TaTe Diamonds is well placed to work together with mining companies and producer governments in advocating for this.

What are your views on the recent controversy on the Rapaport Price List?

I think the industry has matured to a level where an industry price list should be derived from more than just one industry player or source.

Would a similar price list controlled by all the industry stakeholders be the answer? WFDB has put forth this idea. What do you think?

The issue of a price list is rather multi-faceted. I am of the view that the industry price list should have input from more industry stakeholders; especially from producing countries. Producing countries like Angola, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa should play a much bigger role in this.

Does TaTe Diamonds have plans to go into diamond explorations as well? How soon do you anticipate the venture to begin?

Yes, this is certainly something we are looking at. I am excited to share that on September 19, 2019, the Ministry of Mines & Energy of Namibia, granted TaTe Diamonds our 1st Diamond Exploration License - EPL6712. This exploration area borders an area currently being mined by De Beers. We have started some of the geological work already and are working towards developing the proper technical team. There is still a lot of work to be done before we can reach the sampling stage.

How is TaTe Diamonds faring in these tumultuous (COVID-19) times?

We are grateful that all our team members are still in good health and we pray we all survive this global crisis. Just like the rest of the global economy, we are very hard hit by this pandemic. We embarked on an investor roadshow of sorts to seek new investors and raise capital for the business at the end of February 2020. All these efforts have come to an abrupt halt which leaves us in a rather precarious position. The industry has for all intents and purposes, come to a screechy halt which makes it very tough for us.

What strategies is the company using to overcome this period?

We have buckled down on all cashflow expenditures and unfortunately implemented strategies to operate with minimal essential team members only as we chart our way through this storm.

Where do you see the company in say another 10 years?

I am super optimistic and confident that in the next 5 years, TaTe Diamonds will have grown to be a major global player in the industry. TaTe Diamonds will be fully integrated and have strong presence in the sourcing, manufacturing, and retail sectors. TaTe will have a jewelry line that fully embodies the spirit of “from mine to finger”. Mined in Namibia, cut and polished in Namibia, and retailed in a Namibia-owned outlet (web and storefront) in New York, Paris and Hong Kong.

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