India’s relationship with jewellery goes back to time immemorial and is entrenched in tradition, relationships, the rites of passage — from birth to marriage to even death. The traditional thing to do in India has been to go to the neighbourhood or fancy branded jewellery store to buy gold, silver, and stone-set jewellery. According to an IBEF report, the gems and jewellery sector plays a significant role in the Indian economy, contributing around 7% of the country’s GDP and 15.71% to India’s total merchandise exports.
Jewellery buying is a lot about trust, which was hitherto defined by personal interaction and offline stores, but the trust is now shifting online. With the rise of ecommerce and consumer needs shifting from purely traditional, heavy designs to lighter daily and workwear essentials, the way Indians buy jewellery and the kind of designs they look for have also changed.
Online jewellery sales is gaining ground and, according to the IBEF report, is estimated to account for 1-2% of the fine jewellery segment by 2021-22. It may seem like a small percentage, but it amounts to a substantial figure given that the size of Indian jewellery market is huge — it is currently valued at close to $60 Bn and is expected to touch $100 Bn – $110 Bn in next four to five years.
Within this segment, a newly sought-after category is platinum jewellery, the market for which is currently estimated at INR 3,000 Cr and is growing at a rapid 25% CAGR.
With a view to cash in on this burgeoning opportunity — both in online sales and the demand for platinum — Jaipur based Sambhav Karnawat, Khushboo Patwa, andRuchika Beri launched an online platform for authentic platinum jewellery, Jewelove, in January 2016.
Jewelove offers minimalistic jewellery for people who prefer elegance over bling. Its collection includes wedding jewellery as well as everyday workwear designs. To enhance the customer experience, Jewelove also offers customised services.
A bootstrapped startup, Jewelove was incubated at incubation centre Startup Oasis, Jaipur, and has been recognised as one of the authorised retailers of the Platinum Guild International (PGI), a marketing organisation working to develop the global platinum jewellery market.
Jewelove: A Labour Of Love And Economics
Karnawat started experimenting with the idea of Jewelove in 2009 while he was associated with an offline jewellery retail establishment (Surana Jewellers in Jaipur). Having worked there for a few years, he realised that the retail model didn’t excite him much, mainly because of the high capital expenditure involved in it, which reduced profit margins.
He started toying with the idea of an ecommerce platform for jewellery and thus Jewelove was born, with a capital infusion of INR 10 Lakh by the founders.
There’s a lot in a name, as every startup founder knows. The trio wanted a name that resonates with Indians’ love for jewellery. “In the Indian context, jewellery represents the emotional bond between two people and Sambhav penned down many names before we zeroed down on Jewelove,” says Beri.
And it seemed to have worked like a lucky charm for them. The company has recorded positive unit economics and aims to increase its portfolio designs from 1,000 to 1,500 by end of FY18. In the past two years, the startup claims to have sold over 1,000 jewellery pieces and received an average rating of 4.95.
The Jewelove platform offers 1,000 designs across wedding and daily wear categories for both men and women. In the engagement and wedding category, it offers engagement and wedding bands and rings, earrings and pendant sets, bangles, neckpieces, etc. For men, there are chains and kadas on offer. Its workwear category is targeted at the modern, working women and has simple and elegant studs, earrings, and pendants. Simple couple bands start from INR 45,000 while a women’s basic band or a pair of earrings are priced upwards of INR 15,000.
Tackling Trust Deficit In Online Jewellery Shopping
What is the one thing that people look for while buying jewellery, apart from design? Trust. But trust doesn’t come easy, especially in a market dominated by trusted legacy players such as Tanishq, PC Jewellers, Amrapali, Kalyan Jewellers, etc.
Online jewellery companies such as BlueStone, Caratlane, Radiant Bay, and Kuber Box, which have been around for a few years, have succeeded in building this trust to an extent, but newbies usually have a struggle in making a mark while addressing the trust and credibility issue.
Jewellery is a high-ticket item and falls in the category of luxury goods under government regulations. Therefore, even simple fluctuations in industry laws and government decisions such as demonetisation etc have a major impact on the revenue of companies in this segment.
Beri says that from a customer’s perspective, the most common apprehension is with regards to the authenticity of the item of jewellery they are buying online.
Besides, in the case of Jewelove, there is another challenge — people in India are still unaware of the difference between white gold and platinum.
To address the trust deficit problem, the startup assures its customers that it is a certified retailer of the PGI. “Reviews shared by existing customers are a testimony of our products. Plus, we are transparent and what one sees is what one gets, along with a great experience,” says Beri.
To address other external situations such as gifting regulations or wilful defaulters, the company says it has the ethos of ethics and transparency that help it overcome such problems and make it a recommended choice by its customers.
Buoyed by its increasing market understanding, Jewelove is now considering international expansion. Along with working on new innovations in technology and product to keep fueling its growth, Jewelove is also looking out for a strategic investor to fuel its expansion plans.
Besides, competition is getting tougher with ecommerce giants such as Flipkart and Amazon also entering the online jewellery segment. Amazon offers more than 100 brands and four lakh styles from brands such as Malabar Gold, Joyalukkas, Senco Gold, PC Jeweller, WHP Jeweller, PN Gadgil, PC Chandra, etc.
Arun Sirdeshmukh, the Business Head of Amazon Fashion India, says that some of the top precious jewellery brands have grown two to nine times year-on-year sales on Amazon in 2018.
Sirdeshmukh explains that Amazon customers usually opt for the price range of INR 15,000 to 45,000. While style preferences might vary, overall, the company has seen a demand for contemporary styles in rings and bracelets that are light and easy to wear. Besides, customers like having the option of buying heritage styles from different states.
Golden Opportunity In Indian Platinum Industry?
In many foreign countries, platinum jewellery is the preferred metal when it comes to wedding or engagement bands. India, though late to pick up on the trend, is slowly but surely being dazzled by the subtle sheen of platinum, the PGI has found.
Vaishali Banerjee, Managing Director India, PGI, notes in the Platinum Jewellery Business Review for Q2 2018: “Platinum growth in India for 2017 has been very encouraging. Platinum today resonates with young India. The rarity of the metal, the designs inspired by global trends and the distinct emotional positioning of platinum makes it the preferred choice of millennials.”
“The major difference (compared to other countries) is the jewellery preferences and the same can be attributed to cultural dynamics and individual choices. We are seeing the shift here and this transition would go up a notch,” Banerjee says.
The PGI’s Platinum Jewellery Business Review revealed that two key trends — young consumers and bridal demand — are emerging to contribute to platinum demand growth in 2018 in India.
Banerjee also emphasises that the outlook for 2018 is strong, given that both their wedding collections — Platinum Love Bands and Platinum Evara — are getting embedded in Indian culture. She adds that the business opportunity that platinum offers to retailers is incremental and sustainable.
Besides, given that the jewellery market in India is still traditional and fragmented, the market share of online jewellery companies is increasing steadily. According to reports, the online jewellery market in India might reach $3.6 Bn (20% of the global market) in the next three years.
Amid continued challenges posed by new legislation like Goods and Service Tax (GST), the online sector has seen retail sales reported in platinum ounces increase 21% year-on-year for the PGI programme and fabrication ounce demand grows at 34% year-on-year.
In a country like India, where jewellery plays an integral role in relationships as well as tradition, if online jewellery companies can figure out a way to overcome the all-important trust deficit challenge while impressing upon people the value of platinum, there can be a golden market opportunity for online platinum jewellers.
This startup was among the 100 Women Faces 2018 Series Conducted by Womennovator in association with COWE in May 2018.