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Saudi gold major sets sights on Salt Lake
- Cheap, skilled labour lures l’azurde

The West Bengal government could have hit a gold mine. After managing to get the much-awaited special economic zone status from Delhi for Manikanchan, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is all set to sign up one of the largest gold and precious gems manufacturers in the world.

Saudi Arabia-based multi-billion dollar L’Azurde has set its sights on Manikanchan, the gems and jewellery park promoted by the government, for its first production facility outside the Gulf. As per the company plans, two plants will be set up in Calcutta, specialising in gold and gemstone products.

“The company officials have been in touch with us for some time. They want to take around 7,000 sq ft space, in two modules, in Manikanchan,” confirmed D. Sengupta, managing director, I-WIN, a joint venture between ICICI Bank and the West Bengal government, responsible for the project.

L’Azurde officials were camping in Calcutta for over a week recently to check out the infrastructure facilities at the site. “It seems they are satisfied with the facilities. We are expecting the company top brass to come to Calcutta to seal the deal,” added Sengupta.

Though L’Azurde representatives are tight-lipped about the investment details, they have drawn up a time-frame for their project. “The plant at Manikanchan should be complete within two months. Right now we are starting production at Falta, near Diamond Harbour,” said L’Azurde group facility engineer K. Balaji, who, with Riyadh-based senior supervisor Levon Donani, has been conducting preliminary visits to the designated sites. “The company is also planning a silver and diamond manufacturing plant,” added Balaji.

The decision to come to Calcutta — the company’s sixth branch, besides facilities in Riyadh and Dubai — is a “strategic” one, powered by cost advantages and expertise in manufacturing at the production site. “Our main target has been to reduce our manufacturing costs, so we were attracted to West Bengal by its cheap, available workforce. The strong local tradition and abundance of expertise in jewellery production in the region was also a key factor in drawing us to Calcutta,” explained Balaji.

Production will primarily be geared towards exporting the jewellery to buyers in Central and West Asia, as well as Europe and the US. L’Azurde expects to employ at least 100 workers initially. The figure will go up once the company, internationally renowned for its 18 to 21 karat plain gold and studded products, goes in for full-fledged operations.

“The new factories will handle all stages of the manufacturing process, from conception and design to the finished product,” explained Balaji. With L’Azurde landing up in Calcutta, the local gems and jewellery market is bullish about the benefits of an international brand establishing its presence here.

At present, L’Azurde’s India connection is limited to Mumbai, where it off-loads some of its manufacturing requirements to a select group of jewellers. “If such a big company kicks off production in Calcutta, it will definitely give a boost to the industry here,” said a jeweller.

TIMUR MOON

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