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Dream big and work hard towards it

 

...feels VIJAY JAIN, Managing Director and CEO, ORRA, one of the best known diamond jewellery brands in India. In a conversation with Alolika Banerjee, Jain shares how he tranformed a family-run business into a premium brand in the entire country.

 

Q. ORRA is known for the finesse in its diamond jewellery collection. Being a man how did you develop this penchant for such artistically beautiful diamond jewellery?

(Smiles) Well, what makes you think that only women can appreciate artistically beautiful diamond jewellery? A diamond is one of the finest gifts from nature’s beautiful bounty and it doesn’t require one to be born a woman to admire its beauty.

When I took over the business responsibilities, I was clear on one thing – building a national brand from a family run jewellery business.

I believe that understanding the core consumer is essential in any business, whether it is automobile, FMCG, manufacturing or jewellery. This is what has helped me further understand the core design aspect that appeals to the contemporary Indian women of today and help take strategic calls on expansion and merchandising of designs across the country.

Along with all that, I feel my passion for art and photography also helped me in actualising my aesthetic sensibilities, which is very crucial in running a business like this. Today we have an award winning team of designers who work with the latest fashion trends in mind to create stunning pieces of jewellery.

Q. Why entrepreneurship in the first place?

Entrepreneurship is a journey that allowed me as a brand custodian to innovate and develop ideas beyond what would have been otherwise impossible. While you carry a considerable amount of responsibility and risk on your shoulders, entrepreneurship is an extremely fruitful learning experience that helps you visualise an idea from scratch to its end result.

At ORRA we have looked at innovation not only from a design point of view, but also from that of a technological and retail point of view. These contributions have helped us to be recognised as India’s most trusted diamond jewellery brand for two consecutive years in a row.

Q. People usually look for unique options while starting a business. What made you go for the diamond industry, which already had an established market?

My entrepreneurial journey began when I moved from a highly successful career in investment banking to reinvent a family jewellery brand which was then called Inter Gold Gems. We had very high aspirations and wanted to build a consumer centric business at a national level. This meant not only building a scalable organisation through an addition of people, technology, organisational structure, design focus and supply chain but also conceptualising and launching a new brand.

The gold market in India has been largely fragmented and competitive, and did not have a very strong focus on diamond jewellery. Being part of the world’s largest diamond manufacturing company, we realised that our USP would be to leverage our rich diamond heritage. We not only wanted to build a national brand but also push for diamond jewellery, which no one else had done so far. Being backed by a rich diamond heritage helped us make a mark.

We also conducted an in-depth study of the international markets to map a journey of both diamond consumption as well as brands in this space.  From an aspirational point of view, when I looked at the growth and profitability aspects, we felt that diamonds were definitely a better choice in the long term market.

Q. What were the initial challenges that you faced when you started this company?

We faced considerable number of hurdles. The Indian jewellery market has been largely fragmented and, the consumer back then still preferred to go back to their traditional jeweller if they wanted to make any kind of purchases. While consumers were already in the transitional phase when we launched, they were still connected to their traditional jewellers which proved to be one of the initial challenges on the external front. On the other hand, we also did some kind of introspection and realised that it was crucial for us to develop and evolve the outlook of the existing staff to that of a high end luxury brand that would serve as a mark of ORRA for the years to come.

Q. How difficult was it for you to stand against your already established competitors?

ORRA began by offering an unmatched Belgian diamond legacy in an otherwise gold dominated market. At that time I believe we were the first to make people in general realise the essence of diamond jewellery. We literally shook up the sensibility of the market to seeing and appreciating the value of diamond jewellery. We made headway in the jewellery market with a clear differentiator and our design proposition. This coupled with our diamond centric positioning in a gold centric market, helped us stand out against the competition.

ORRA gives a strong focus on anything related to design. We took a strategic call to display across all our stores curated and exclusive designs as opposed to simply filling up the store with multiple pieces of jewellery. From offering a quick browsing experience, we evolved to comfortable sofa-styled seating, inviting consumers to spend a relaxed time experiencing the product. And this luxury-oriented approach from our end saw an evolution of our consumer-base as well.

Q. What mistakes did you make while starting your business and what did you learn from them?

When we started off, we were majorly driven by passion and instead of investing in systems and personnel training, we spent more on building the brand name. However, we have learnt our lesson and today invest heavily on both these fronts which have resulted in a positive business impact as well.

Q. What is that one recent trend that has excited you lately?

The consumers of today can express their likes and dislikes more than ever before. What is true of the offline space is true for the online space as well and therefore the consumer cannot be taken for granted. This nature of the consumer therefore puts more pressure on the brand to ensure a seamless experience of products across platforms. With the consumer already present across different mediums as well as social media channels, marketing has become a very important aspect for growing and improving one’s business.

The trend today is such that one in three consumers is on his cell phone watching television while one in four Indians is already online and accessing multiple channels. Even when customers walk into stores, they are checking their phones for price comparisons, details on products as well as a variety of other options. In a category like ours, where word-of-mouth is critical, social media is playing an increasingly important role. Our focus therefore has been on making “one view of the customer”, “one view of stock” and “one similar experience” unified across different channels.

Q. Are there any books that you would want budding entrepreneurs to read?

Peter Drucker is my all time favourite and I still continue to read his works.

Q. Do you think an MBA degree is essential in today’s competitive world? Why?

An MBA allows a person to gain a holistic perspective of the functioning and sustainability of a business. While one can choose to excel in various other degree courses, an MBA helps one to master different areas of business functionality that are very essential in today’s competitive market. My advice to young aspirants is that they should not view an MBA simply as a means to an end; rather they need to be able to constantly evolve and adapt. Simply having a degree will not ensure that you reach the top, but your perseverance, hard work and determination will help you carve a niche for yourself and that will make you indispensable.

Q. Advice for MBA aspirants who would want to make a mark in this competitive world...

This is a decade of tremendous opportunity. One should dream big, but that is not enough. One should also be ready to work hard towards achieving one’s dreams!