What could be the motto of a company with a legacy of over five decades during the difficult times we are treading currently?
"Senco Gold and Diamonds' mantra to survive the COVID-19 crisis is staying connected to its consumers and community", Suvankar Sen, CEO and Executive Director said in an interaction with Moneycontrol.
The Kolkata-headquartered jewellery behemoth has adopted a two-pronged strategy to invest in both offline and online infrastructure.
“Going against the grain, we opened one of our biggest stores nationally - a new 7000 sq. ft store at Bowbazar area which is popular for being the jewellery hub of Kolkata. Jewellery shopping through video calling facility, use of technology with a revamped e-commerce channel for smoother customer experience, introduction of e-catalogues and virtual trial rooms were some of the innovations.”
Sen, 37, holds an MBA from the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad and has been associated with the company since 2005 with 13 years of experience in the jewellery industry.
In short term, volatility will continue, but in the long term, say two years, prices will be in upward trend, he added.
Q: It has been a year since the nationwide lockdown was announced. How has the last 12 months been for Senco?
Saying that it was a challenging year for Senco Gold and Diamonds would be an understatement. We faced multiple challenges as a company – nationwide lockdown, financial uncertainty, change in consumer behaviour and worst of all - demise of our MD - my father, who built the company from scratch.
However, we decided to face the headwinds head-on and practice what we have always done – staying connected to our consumers and community.
At a time when the retail industry was witnessing optimizing of store count and the costs, Senco Gold & Diamonds adopted a two pronged strategy to invest in both offline and online infrastructure. Going against the grain, we opened one of our biggest stores nationally - a new 7000 sq.ft store at Bowbazar area which is popular for being the jewellery hub of Kolkata. Jewellery shopping through video calling facility, Use of technology with a revamped e-commerce channel for smoother customer experience, introduction of E-catalogues and Virtual trial rooms were some of the innovations.
All of these initiatives inspired faith and trust in the brand Senco Gold and Diamonds in our customers and employees and that is why we have been able to match last fiscal’s performance.
Q: How do you see the demand shaping up in FY22?
We are optimistic even though there is a second wave which has hit us. We are hopeful, with the vaccination efforts on in full-flow, we should be able to come out of this faster than Covid 1.0. The upcoming wedding season and India’s sizeable millennial and zillenial population will drive demand. Assuming that there would not be any complete lockdown, we expect FY22 will see marginal growth for the industry.
Q: Which of these categories saw the most uptake – gold, diamond, silver or platinum in the year gone by? And how do you see this panning out in FY22?
Gold has seen the most uptake followed by diamond, silver and platinum. Going ahead Gold jewellery will continue to be the most preferred metal, as it is an integral part of Indian weddings. The upcoming wedding season is going to drive consumer buying especially with gold doing great as an asset class in crisis.
Q: With multiple auspicious wedding dates in this fiscal, what is your strategy to tap the wedding market?
Weddings play an important role in jewellery demand in India and for us too it is a significant product category. With a trend of lower spend on wedding paraphernalia and cost-savings on other fronts during pandemic times, these funds are being channelled towards buying wedding jewellery and that bodes well for the sector.
We have launched our bridal collection - ‘The Great Indian Vivaha Collection’ handcrafted by our karigars to cater to the new age bride. It captures the cultural nuances and integrates the tastes and preferences of consumers at a hyperlocal level.
Q: Senco is already at 110+ showrooms nationally. What is your retail strategy going forward, especially with most jewellers giving a push through online channels?
Omni-channel retail strategy is definitely the way forward. Consumers today want to avoid going to crowded areas and look for a safer shopping experience with more space, hygienic conditions and well trained store personnel. So offline stores provide a touch and feel experience to the customers which is critical for an industry like jewellery.
At the same time, online channels have an important role to play to serve specific consumer requirements of window shopping, browsing e-catalogues and virtual trials etc. We will continue to invest in both these channels to provide a seamless customer experience.
Q: With hallmarking rules kicking in from June 1, what impact do you see on the sector? Will it lead to higher prices for consumers?
The hallmarking rules are a big positive for the industry, both for organised players like us as well as the customers. It will protect the public against lower caratage and ensure a level playing field for all players. It will not have an impact on prices for consumers.
Q: A leading Indian jeweller has recently listed on the stock market. Are you planning to revive your IPO plans?
We are closely observing the markets and the economic scenario and will plan our IPO at an appropriate time.
Q: How do you see the trend in gold prices?
In short term, volatility will continue, but as a long term 2 years prices will be in upward trend.
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