Chandukaka Saraf and Sons is an age old brand with a journey of 180+ years. They have experienced all ups and downs, the post-independence atmosphere, the cultural changes and many more things over the course of this exciting journey. They are very confident that the experience gained over this huge amount of time will hold in good stead for years to come. Kushal Shah speaks to Siddhart Atul Shah, director, Chandukaka Saraf & Sons Pvt. Ltd on their journey and more.
Desijam: Being a 180+ plus year brand, what is the most rewarding experience for you as a business owner?
Siddhart: We are now established as one of the most trusted jewelers in India. We have established trust in our buyers and we value the sentiments of our buyers when it comes to pure gold. This is how the saying “Baramati Gold, Pure Gold” was coined by the people. We could do this only because even after such a long legacy, our approach is always young. After all our jewels make you feel young and beautiful when you wear them.
Desijam: Could you elaborate a little on some of the challenges faced by your brand over a period of time?
Siddhart: Challenges are a part and parcel of any business and being in this industry for such a long time certainly helps us as we are able to foresee most of them before they become serious issues. That said, change is constant and it is one of the biggest challenges faced by any organization. Not only us, but entire jewelry segment has been facing various challenges such as changing taste and interests of buyers. Fluctuation in gold rates and taxes, duplication of designs and thefts are also some challenges being faced by the jewelry businesses in India. Also, the buying power of our consumers has skipped a generation now, wherein previously the elders of a house decided about gold purchases, now it’s the youth taking the decisions and spending the money. With this change, the industry faces a challenge in educating them about investing in gold and viewing gold as an investment rather than a lifestyle accessory. We are also facing major challenges when the government authorities change policies overnight without any intimation. We need to ensure that we are ready to implement those policy changes as soon as we can.
Desijam: What was the motivation for you to join this field and what are some key changes that you wish to implement in Chandukaka Saraf and Sons Pvt. Ltd.?
Siddhart: My primary reasons to join this business were that it is a strongly principled business which truly believes in complete transparency not only in all facets of its operations, but most notably, to its customers. We have modeled our business around the saying that the customer is the king. The brand also has a strong legacy which I want to take ahead and continue for years to come. Some changes which I would want to implement over time would be to make it a Global brand and get it more involved in Corporate Social Responsibility activities.
Desijam: Who do you admire and wish to emulate being a business owner and an entrepreneur?
Siddhart: I admire my dad and my grandfather the most. They are very shrewd businessmen and I deeply admire their business acumen and ethics. I am also a huge admirer of Steve Jobs for his innate ability to think differently and for being aggressive.
Desijam: How do you balance your personal and professional life?
Siddhart: I start every day with exercise. I am in office by 10 AM and work till 6 PM. I enjoy my time off and love to spend my evenings with my family or my friends. I continuously learn new things and that is also one of the activities which consumes a lot of my free time.
Desijam: What are your favorite hobbies and things you do on your pass time?
Siddhart: I love to play sports. I am an avid follower of several TV soaps and like reading books. During my off time I visit different places and try to learn and analyze new things.
Desijam: What is your favorite holiday destination?
Siddhart: I still have a lot to travel and am yet to find my paradise. I may be able to answer this after a few years.
Desijam: As the owner of such a huge and prestigious brand, you would have definitely seen a lot of changes in the buying trends of the Indian consumer. What do you think will be the key growth area in the coming years?
Siddhart: Innovation and customization will play major role according to me. Also, delivering maximum value against the money invested rather than outperforming against expectations will be the key.
Desijam: What is the USP or the main selling point of your bridal collection? Are you seeing any changes in the way in which consumers purchase jewelry given the new trend of low key marriages?
Siddhart: Firstly, they are made of pure gold/ silver or with certified diamonds or gems. We have a huge number of permutations and combinations of available of various factors such as make, type, style, cost etc. so that the customer is always satisfied. My belief is that having a huge catalog of jewelry right from the retro styles to the latest contemporary fad is what works the best, as that ensures we have a perfect piece for our customer, of every age and, of every taste.
Desijam: Do you have any upcoming seasonal jewelry collection? If yes, could you tell us a little bit about it?
Siddhart: We are launching variety of new generation and traditional Mangalsutra collection in the coming future. These Mangalsutras are beautiful and fits everyone’s choice. Our brand ambassador Genelia Deshmukh couldn’t stop her from trying one and buying one. If you have any future plans to buy jewelry on the upcoming occasions like Diwali or for the wedding season in December, then we will be having new range of jewelry on display.
Desijam: The domestic gems and jewelry market is pegged to be at roughly about 1.2 Lakh Crore but the online sales of jewelry is a mere 1% of that total amount. Do you see that trend changing anytime soon and what are the reasons for this number being so low? Also, what is business plan to take your business online given that E-commerce is a booming business in India?
Siddhart: E-commerce is a new market for us which and is still in its infancy. It will take time for people to adapt to it. Jewelry, being a high value commodity and also simultaneously, being a commodity which has an emotional connect to its buyers, customers still prefer coming into traditional brick and mortar stores to purchase it. In the future though, online jewelry sales are bound to grow. We already have a website csjewellers.com, which is up and running. We are working something new and by December we will have ramped up big time into E-commerce.
Desijam: Finally, on an unrelated note, what is your reaction as a business owner to the recent changes that the government has made on the import duties on gold? Is it going to hamper business or is the government right in taking this step?
Siddhart: Import duties were already applicable at 2-3%. But it’s been increased to 10% for more than 2 years now. The Jewelry sector is the second largest employment generating industry. The government takes certain decisions on taxes taking into account the economy as a whole. While some decisions are a bit harsh on our industry, it is one of the challenges of India being a growing economy.
(Story by Kushal Shah)