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At the De Beers Forevermark Forum, we intend to harness the power of collective thinking and shape the future of the diamond business

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As De beers Forevermark embarks upon 75 years of its famous tagline, “A diamond is forever”, it is a beautiful coincidence that India celebrates its 75th year of Independence. A mellifluous confluence of these two events spells the world for the natural diamond business, which has seen remarkable growth in the last few years. Moreover, as the trade has grown, so has the beauty of technology — blurring the lines between virtual and the real. This, and more will be decoded at the eleventh edition of the De beers Forevermark Forum, which takes place from 29th- 1st June in Mumbai. As the Indian diamond industry prepares for this marquee event, Sachin Jain, Managing Director of De Beers India, talks to Soma Bhatta, throwing light on the ‘tous-les-nouveau’ in terms of the business and technology. Below are excerpts.

Soma Bhatta (SB): You pioneered the idea of an annual De beers Forevermark Forum in India. What is the central idea of the Forum?
Sachin Jain (SJ): The over-arching idea has always been to create a sense of strong partnership amongst De beers and the stakeholders of the diamond industry that extends beyond matters of transaction. We intend to harness the power of collective thinking and shape the future of diamond jewellery. We want to maximize the opportunities in the business. The event creates a sense of bonhomie and camaraderie, even as it brings in a readiness for the future. It is an open forum, so jewellers who are not a part of our retail or manufacturing programs are welcome to attend the event and benefit from it.

SB: It is the eleventh edition of De beers Forevermark Forum in India. How do you look back at the journey?
SJ: The forum always has had a forward-looking and futuristic approach. We deliberate on early and emerging trends in the diamond business and outside of it, drawing in from the wider world of retailing. It stems from the fact that our consumers are a part of a larger ecosystem, which influences their behavior and choices every day. Diamonds hold an aspirational value and its incumbent on us to offer an experience that is on par with the best in retail.
A decade ago, we started the conversation about introducing technology in retail. We discussed e-commerce, omni-channel retailing, gamification of retail and creating experiential retailing spaces. Today, these are accepted realities in the jewellery business. Over time, jewellers have begun to appreciate the farsightedness and significance of the discussions at the forum. The actionability of these ideas varies as per individual goals and objectives as each retailer will script his/her own diamond growth story. Our job is to open the doors to new possibilities and innovations and even offer the means of achieving it.
We were ahead in time when it came to identifying the changing narrative in retail. Source transparency, sustainability and responsible sourcing are terms that are commonplace in the post-Covid world, but were unheard of at the time we started the dialogue.

SB: The Forum has had a huge impact in terms of changing jewellers’ mindsets about existing business practices. Please elucidate on some of the most notable progressions observed by you.
SJ: I don’t think it is just the forum that is steering the change. It is the combined push from various councils and industry bodies for an organized way of working.
Having said that, one of the most perceptible changes is how retailers are beginning to invest in people and empower them to make effective decisions. I see active participation of such top-level professionals alongside owners in our forums. The other change I see is in the way jewellers measure retail sales performance and productivity. They are assessing their returns per sq. ft and inventory turnover at the time of merchandise planning. Overall, they are beginning to approach retail more scientifically. These changes augur well for the industry. We have been having recurrent conversations around these subjects and its interesting to see it translate into concrete action.

SB: The last edition of the forum introduced the idea of Code of Origin. What are the new developments on this novel idea of provenance and traceability of De beers Diamonds?
SJ: The program is still in its testing phase. Retailers who are part of the pilot project are observing positive consumer reactions, and it is encouraging us to increase capacity to ensure we meet the demand.
Code of Origin is a customized code unique to a diamond, assuring the consumer that it is natural and ethically mined while disclosing the source. Still, we feel the need to enhance and enrich the backstory that reveals itself through the Code.
Earlier, the consumer learnt that the diamonds are natural, discovered by De beers in one of their mines in Botswana, Canada, Namibia or South Africa where it has helped protect the environment and build community support, particularly for women and girls.
Now, we are personalizing the story in a way that the buyer will learn about the precise impact of the diamond they own. The story is individualized to the degree that consumer will know all the good that comes out of their diamond — both for the community and the environment. We are making the story more persuasive.

SB: What are the key highlights of this year’s Forum?
SJ: For the first time, the top management and the critical think tank of De beers is attending the Indian Forum in large numbers. Retailers will have the unique opportunity to interact and learn from each one of them. We will talk about emerging trends like Metaverse and crypto currencies, and its application in jewellery business. We have a very special experience zone with the concept of a Door that can virtually lead the entrant into the mines live. The Door is a gateway to the inspiring world and journey of natural diamonds.
Interestingly, every retailer selling De beers’ natural diamonds (knowingly or unknowingly) has been an integral part of this world we are about to reveal, for decades. Now is the opportunity for every natural diamond retailer (selling De beers’ diamonds) to make their consumer a part of this fascinating journey.
The Code of Origin is the key (in the hands of retailers) to the doorway that will bring to light these unique stories and instil pride in owning a De beers’ diamond.

SB: Code of Origin is founded on the premise of the new narratives of source transparency, sustainability and ethical standard in mining. How do you see these trends developing in India?
SJ: The western world is definitely more aware and curious about these aspects of business. The world is converging and it is a matter of time before these factors become the base standards of doing business.
It is, maybe, just the right time for retailers (who want to create distinction in a hyper-competitive market) to proactively start these dialogues with their consumers. Though it is still early days in India, the younger generation is making conscious choices. Those retailers who take the lead today will come out winners as these narratives become more mainstream in the coming years.

SB: What is your message to the trade?
SJ: It is a very special year for us. We are celebrating the diamond (literally and figuratively) jubilee of the momentous day when Frances Gerety created the famous slogan ‘A diamond is forever’. Coincidentally, India is also celebrating its 75th year of independence. It is indeed a rare opportunity for all diamantaires and proud Indians to look back at their (diamond) journey so far and build it better from here on! We welcome you all to the forum.

Courtesy: Retail Jeweller India News

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