Nabanita Chakraborty buys gold almost every month but no longer from her old local favourites.
Her loyalty now lies with the organised retail jewellery chains that have invaded town, bringing with them both brand name and a brave new approach to gold as an object of desire.
Nabanita, 39, swears by Malabar Gold and Diamonds and Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri, two of the jewellery chains that have set up shop in Calcutta over the last 15 months. “There are advantages to buying jewellery from these brands. For one, their designs are different from the rest,” she said.
The list grew on Monday with Kerala-based Joyalukkas opening a 5,000sq ft store on Camac Street, the same location where TBZ and Malabar have showrooms.
For those wondering if that isn’t too much gold for the Calcuttan’s pocket, the big brands together sell 250kg daily on an average.
“It is good that we have major jewellery brands from across the country coming here. Buyers are becoming increasingly brand conscious, particularly when it comes to gifting jewellery,” said Subhayu Dasgupta, who like Nabanita believes that gold will never go out of fashion.
Joy Alukkas, chairman of Joyalukkas, said his first store in the east would showcase jewellery designs from across the country.
“We are a global jeweller that strongly understands and is sensitive to local culture and traditions. The designs and quality of Joyalukkas jewellery will pay homage to the rich cultural heritage of Calcutta,” he said. “Our Calcutta store will feature not only gold jewellery designs that are available in the region but also design trends prevalent in the south, west and north.”
The market no longer depends on the sale of traditional jewellery during the wedding season or festivals. Lightweight jewellery is in demand round the year and retail chains cater to every choice.
According to couture jeweller Raj Mahtani, buying has moved beyond the traditional family jewellers.
“Jewellery is now perceived as a fashion thing. Advertising, media, jewellery weeks, celebrities...jewellery is accessible now more than ever,” he said.
Mahtani sees the entry of big jewellery brands into the east as a strategic move. “Many jewellery companies are borrowing from the bank, so the pressure on them to perform is huge. They need to expand. Bengal is a very viable option for south Indian jewellers because Bengalis share the same sentiment about gold like people in the south,” he explained.
While Kerala-based Malabar Gold and Diamonds has a lone showroom on Camac Street, Mumbai-based TBZ opened two stores in 2012, the second one in Kankurgachhi.
“The gold jewellery market in eastern India is estimated to be worth Rs 70,000 crore. There is no concrete data because a large part of the market is still unorganised, but the estimated yearly growth rate of the jewellery business ranges between 5 and 10 per cent per annum,” said Bachhraj Bamalwa, a former president of the All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation.
One of the reasons why gold retailers are increasingly focusing on increasing their presence in the east is the saturation in the south. “The volume growth for these retailers has been little in the south because they already have a large number of showrooms in the Tier-II and Tier-III cities,” said an official of the research firm ICRA.
Industry sources said the entry of big brands had created a win-win scenario not only for buyers, but skilled artisans from Bengal, too.
Large city-based retailers that still hold 50 per cent of the market are not bothered about competition from outside yet. “A lot of noise is being made about jewellers from other states opening stores here, but one must remember that a lot of Calcutta jewellers have a national presence with multiple stores,” said Anargha Chowdhury, director of Anjali Jewellers.
“Gold is a staple. Everyone buys gold for weddings, even the younger generation. That hasn’t changed,” added Subir Kumar Sen, director of B.C. Sen & Co. Ltd.
If anyone is worried, it is the smaller, single-shop Bowbazar retailer. “More players mean more competition. Big retail chains will survive but the smaller players like us could struggle,” said a store owner in Calcutta’s jewellery lane.