Celebrating Golden Jubilee of the GJEPC…

(By Sanjay Kothari): The year 2016 is being celebrated as ‘Golden Jubilee’ of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) which was set up by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India (GoI) in 1966. This is one of several Export Promotion Councils (EPCs) launched by the Indian Government, to boost the country’s export thrust, when India’s post-Independence economy began making forays in the international markets. GJEPC has been granted autonomous status since 1998.

The GJEPC is the apex body of the gems & jewellery industry and today it represents almost 6,000 exporters in the sector. During last five decades, the GJEPC has emerged as one of the most active EPCs, and has continuously strived to expand its reach and depth in its promotional activities as well as widen and increase services to its members. The India International Jewellery Show (IIJS), being organized by the GJEPC since last 33 years has now become one of the most important shows globally and a gateway to India’s gem & jewellery sector.

I must mention here the Council’s measures undertaken to upgrade, upskill and generally improve the industry’s standards and products. It has set up various institutes across the country, foremost among them the Indian Institute of Gems & Jewellery (IIGJ) imparting international quality courses for training artisans and designers for this industry. There are various gemmological institutes under its umbrella like the Gemmological Institute of India (GII), Gem Testing Laboratory, Jaipur and the Indian Gemmological Institute, New Delhi and Indian Diamond Institute in Surat, undertake research, training and certification activities.

The GJEPC interacts closely with the National Skill Development Council (NSDC), an initiative of the Government of India, to take the latter’s programme to the gems & jewellery industry. It has played an important role in setting up the Gem & Jewellery Skill Council of India (GJSCI) recently.

The India Gem & Jewellery Awards has over the years been recognition of achievement and excellence of the leading companies within the industry and acted as a spur to improve performance to others.  New categories like Woman Entrepreneur, Socially Responsible Company introduced recently have kept the Awards categories relevant and up to date with the current environment.

Taken together, through its various functions and activities, the GJEPC has forged a fitting atmosphere to provide a boost for gems & jewellery exports; by creating an enabling environment through its interaction with the Government and other agencies and bodies; by creating awareness and branding of the Indian industry and its products in India and abroad; and by providing the necessary inputs for both the industry and its product to keep developing and improving.

The progress of the GJEPC is so far so good. But now the sector faces some challenges which I think it should address effectively. Liquidity crunch is one of the foremost issues faced by the diamond traders in recent times. Small and big size defaulters in diamond sector have compelled the banks tighten its credit norms. But I think it is unfair on part of banks to punish the entire diamond industry for a few ‘bunch of black sheep’. Bankers and financial institutions have literally lost faith in the industry after a trail of banking defaults since 2007. The collaterals have been increased to over 100%, which were earlier used to be in the range of 20-30%. It is the right time that the government should tighten the noose around such defaulters and set an example for others falling in the line.

Generic promotion is another issue needs to be addressed immediately. Unfortunately, De Beers, which built up the global market for diamonds with its iconic generic campaign featuring the tagline A Diamond Is Forever, has withdrawn from promotions ever since its market share fell below the 40% level. It hopes to promote diamonds in the gift-giving segment, particularly in China. It has recognized, however, that consumer demand needs stimulating and has announced a promotional campaign for its own Forevermark brand.

GJEPC and De Beers, during the 33rd edition of the IIJS have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to undertake joint promotional activities to drive consumer demand for diamond jewellery in India. The marketing campaign will be run over the key selling season later this year. Details of the funding are being discussed and will be subsequently decided by both GJEPC.

Besides, the Council has also signed a similar MoU with the Diamond Producers’ Association (DPA) is and eager to sign more such pacts with other mining Companies. These initiatives will certainly help boost consumer confidence which has been badly shaken in recent years and help activate demand in future.

Another issue that the industry faces is of Undisclosed Synthetics. The Indian diamond industry has expressed its concern about the menace of ‘contamination’ in natural diamonds and has also taken several steps including formation of Natural Diamond Monitoring Committee (NDMC) that has recently developed some solutions which would help prevent undisclosed mixing of synthetic diamonds with the natural ones.

The solutions developed by the NDMC are outcome of one of the most comprehensive studies ever made in the diamond sector – spanning eight countries across three continents over a period of nearly four months. The study has incorporated inputs from a wide variety of players including manufacturers, retailers, equipment firms, testing laboratories, global Trade Bodies, legal firms, consultants and industry experts. The solutions evolved on basis of the study will ensure fair trade practices to curb the issue of undisclosed mixing and ensure full and fair disclosure to the purchaser, claims the NDMC.

Let me emphatically stress here at this juncture that the GJEPC has truly played a very constructive and pivotal role, of course with the due policy support by the Indian government, in transforming the Indian Gem & Jewellery Industry into the modern days’ status. We, at GJEPC are very proud to see the Council achieving this milestone of 50 years and wish it many more such credits in years to come.

(The author is former Chairman GJEPC who is fondly known as ‘Father of the Modern Indian Diamond Industry)