Shamlal Ahamed on how Malabar Gold & Diamonds struck gold in Middle East

Malabar Gold & Diamonds is the flagship company of Malabar Group, a leading Indian business conglomerate. Established in 1993 in Kerala, it has grown into a global jewellery retailer with over 330 outlets in 12 countries. The company has a significant international presence, with branches in India, the Middle East, Far East, the USA, and Canada. Malabar Gold & Diamonds has 14 manufacturing units in India and the GCC, producing high-quality jewellry. The company offers 12 exclusive jewellery brands catering to various customer preferences.In an exclusive Interview with Adgully Middle East, Shamlal Ahamed, MD-International Operations, Malabar Gold & Diamonds, shares how the brand has emerged in the Middle Eastern market. He delves deeper into the strategies as well as the innovations that the brand has done for their consumers in the region.Can you provide an overview of Malabar Gold & Diamonds' current market presence in the Middle East? Are there any specific strategies or initiatives that have contributed to your success in the Middle East?We have a robust retail presence in the Middle East with over 122 showrooms across the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.The Middle East jewellery market is an extremely vibrant one with diversified demand spectrum including occasion as well as non-occasion-based purchases, gifting and self-purchases. The region is a global melting pot as well. Keeping these elements in mind, we always adopt a diverse product and policy strategy to cater to a varied range of customers.Our initiatives include tailored offerings to match the cultural preferences of each market, ensuring a seamless blend of tradition and innovation. Additionally, our focus on delivering exceptional customer service and maintaining the highest standards of craftsmanship has fostered trust and loyalty among our clientele. These strategies are delivering results in the Middle East.What trends are you observing in consumer behaviour within the Middle East market, particularly in the jewellery and luxury goods sector?We are witnessing a strong inclination towards personalized and customized pieces, where consumers seek superior design and high-quality finishes. Be it a unique, one-off creation or a custom-designed piece reflecting individual style, there is a growing expectation for the highest standards of quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. Diamond jewellery and solitaire jewellery has also seen a rise in demand, especially amongst the millennial and Gen Z population.From a design point-of-view, there is an equal preference for both traditional and modern designs. They have grown accustomed to and are very receptive to global jewellery styles, seeking the latest designs in the market, be it for occasional use or daily wear.Notably, we are attuned to the growing trend of sustainability and ethical choices, exemplified by our association with Randpure Refinery in South Africa, to procure 100% traceable, RandPure Gold. This commitment reflects our dedication to ethical sourcing and positions us at the forefront of an ever-evolving industry landscape.Can you highlight any recent product innovations or launches that have been well-received in the Middle East?Throughout the 30-year journey of Malabar Gold & Diamonds, we have always made it a point to seamlessly blend customer-centric policies into our operations, contributing to a more versatile and transparent jewellery sector. It is a well-known fact that natural diamonds have been growing in popularity amongst the masses over the past few years. However, with a significant portion of our customer base being value-conscious jewellery buyers, the one thing that held them back from indulging more into the valued gem was its low exchange/buyback value in comparison to gold. In an effort to bridge this gap between aspiration and reality, we recently introduced the ‘100% Value on Diamond Exchange’ across our showrooms internationally.This policy change created waves in the market, with even ardent gold buyers gravitating towards diamonds, considering it not only a beautiful adornment, but as an asset having an investment value on par with gold.Amongst the numerous collection launches that we carry out every year to meet the varying preferences of our immense customer base, some of the ranges that received rave reviews and enquiries from jewellery lovers were Noor Collection & Bella collection in gold jewellery and Enigma collection & Blush collection in the diamond category.How does Malabar Gold & Diamonds stay ahead of the curve in terms of design and product offerings to meet the diverse tastes of the Middle Eastern consumer?We keep enriching our designs and product offerings by seamlessly blending cultural sensitivity with innovation, meeting the diverse tastes of the consumers in the Middle East. Our design philosophy creates a melange of global trends with the rich cultural heritage of the diverse diaspora that resides in the region, ensuring our jewellery reflects individuality and resonates with the valued preferences of our clientele. With wedding jewellery making up a significant portion of jewellery purchase, region-specific bridal jewellery collections are also introduced into the market every year.Through active engagement with customers via feedback and a keen awareness of emerging trends, we swiftly adapt to changing preferences, providing collections with a fresh perspective. Our commitment extends beyond just offering exquisite designs; it's about curating an experience that caters to the varied lifestyles and tastes of the customers in the Middle East.With the rise of e-commerce, how has Malabar Gold & Diamonds embraced digital platforms in the Middle East? Are there specific technological advancements or digital strategies that have proven successful in engaging customers in the region?Malabar Gold & Diamonds has consistently demonstrated a commitment to adapt its operations and practices to the evolving technological and business landscape. To enhance overall efficiency and provide exceptional and differentiated service to our customers, we have embarked on a journey of technological advancement, transforming into a technology-driven organisation with omnichannel retail capability. To achieve this, we are actively working with renowned global technology giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Accenture, E&Y, and Deloitte.Looking ahead, what are the company's growth projections and strategic priorities for the Middle East market?While Malabar Gold & Diamonds has a robust and successful presence across the Middle East, the region has been undergoing a stellar economic transformation in recent years. This directly translates to a significant potential for growth and expansion in the Middle East. The ambitious expansion plan that we have charted for the region involves strengthening our presence in existing regions with the launch of more showrooms as well as expanding our presence to new territories.

Golden times: Indian jewellery brands sparkle in the UAE market

"You are never fully dressed without  jewellery," is a renowned quote that beautifully encapsulates the significance of jewellery in our lives, particularly for women. Jewellery stands out as an accessory that effortlessly enhances the wearer's appearance, transcending boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. Historically, India was revered as the epicenter of jewellery craftsmanship, but today, its allure has spread globally, particularly in the Middle East. Indian jewelers, attuned to this burgeoning trend, have seized the opportunity to expand their businesses by establishing outlets in the Middle East market. Let's explore this phenomenon further.Middle East: The next hub for jewelleryThe Middle East jewellery market is a significant and growing sector of the global jewellery industry. The region has a rich history and culture of jewellery making, with skilled artisans and designers creating intricate and luxurious pieces that are highly sought after by consumers around the world.The MENA jewellery market is projected to grow from $30.72 billion in 2022 to $52.24 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 7.88 percent in the forecast period. Moreover, according to 6Wresearch, the UAE jewellery market is sure to grow during the 2023-2029 period.  The key factors driving this tremendous growth include rising disposable income, increasing consumer preferences for luxury goods, and the growing tourism industry in the Middle East. In addition, the Middle East has a strong cultural affinity for jewellery, which is also contributing in the expansion of the jewellery market.Indian brands beautifying MENAThe last couple of years have seen Indian jewellery brands making their strong presence in the lucrative MENA market, thanks to their intricate designs, high-quality craftsmanship, and the use of precious metals and stones. According to available data, the overall jewellery exports amounted to $5.4 billion in June 2022, which saw 17 per cent year-on-year growth. This tremendous growth can be owed to the Indo-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) in 2022. This agreement has strengthened the trade relations between both the nations.Malabar Gold & Diamonds was the first Indian jewellery brand to have utilised the duty benefits of the CEPA to import 25 kg of gold in October 2022, marking a significant milestone for Indian jewellery brands. Shamlal Ahamed, MD - International Operations, Malabar Gold & Diamonds, stated: “The liberal trade policies that promote ease of doing business, political stability, ease of access to international markets and the extremely conducive trade agreements with India, to name a few, make the region very attractive for Indian investment.”<img src='\045007bbdd04203445bcf3ca548600a1.png' class='content_image'>He added: “There are several other factors that make the Middle East jewellery market one of the best in the world for Indian brands. If one takes the UAE as an example, the large Indian diaspora that resides in the region, with high earning capacity, makes up a significant chunk of the market in the middle east. This is an immediately attractive and lucrative prospect for Indian brands looking to establish themselves in the Middle East.”Speaking on the same lines, Ramesh Kalyanaraman, Executive Director, Kalyan Jewellers, said: “The UAE market's appeal to Indian brands, including Kalyan Jewellers, can be attributed to several key factors. The geographical proximity to India, coupled with cultural affinities, fosters stronger business connections and facilitates logistical operations. Additionally, the UAE's tax policy, which exempts gold and jewellery exports, presents a favorable economic environment for expansion. We believe that the tax benefits offered by the UAE not only enhance the competitiveness of our products in the international market but also contribute positively to the growth of the overall jewellery industry.”UAE: A perfect playground for Indian brandsRenowned Indian jewellery brands like Tanishq, Malabar Gold & Diamonds, Kalyan Jewellers, Joyallukas, etc. have successfully expanded their operations to the UAE, showcasing their collections to a diverse customer base. These include not only the Indian diaspora but also the local people as well as tourists from all over the world.Malabar Gold & Diamonds was one of the initial brands to make a foray in the Middle Eastern soil.Says Shamlal Ahamed: “With a strong focus on providing an exemplary jewellery shopping experience to jewellery lovers, the brand quickly gained acceptance amongst jewellery lovers of all nationalities by combining a host of customer-centric approaches with an exquisite collection of jewellery, emerging as one of the most preferred jewellery retailers in the region. The humble yet ambitious beginning laid the groundwork for our expansion into the other GCC countries, Singapore, Malaysia, the US, and the UK. In this regard, the Middle East market was extremely receptive to our business, so much so that we recently established the Malabar International Hub (MIH) at the historic Dubai Gold Souq. MIH houses all the enabling functionalities of the group’s immense international operations and will act as the epicenter for the brand’s current and future business aspirations.”About Kalyan Jeweller’s foray into the UAE, Ramesh Kalyanaraman said: “In 2013, we embarked on this strategic expansion, marking two decades of our journey. As we celebrate our 10-year presence in the UAE, Kalyan Jewellers has consistently flourished in the region, steadily expanding its market share. Over the years, we've worked diligently to create a comprehensive shopping experience for our patrons, ensuring our presence across various consumer touchpoints and building a distinctive presence in the market.”UAE: A goldmine for jewellery brandsThe UAE market offers numerous advantages to Indian jewellery brands, including a thriving population of Indian expatriates, a business-friendly environment, and a strong bilateral relationship between the UAE and India.<img src='\81ed2496e73766b03f3b651a0b09a552.png' class='content_image'>Additionally, the UAE presents an opportunity to Indian brands to increase their market share by targeting other diverse communities. However, the primary advantage lies in the trust and preference that Indians have for Indian brands, ensuring a stable and significant presence in the UAE market.Shamlal Ahamed, when discussing why the UAE is an ideal market for the brand, says: "Malabar Gold & Diamonds initially focused on serving the jewelry preferences of the extensive Indian expatriate community in the region. Over time, our customer base expanded to include the broader South Asian diaspora, followed by expatriates from various nationalities, including Arabs from different countries. Eventually, we established a strong presence among the local Emirati population. Our wide range of designs, outstanding service, and commitment to transparency swiftly made us the preferred jewellery retailer among Indians and people of other nationalities."On the expansion plans of Kalyan Jewellers, Ramesh Kalyanaraman said: “The brand has made significant strides in expanding its presence in the Middle East. Currently, we operate in 33 locations across four countries in the region. The Middle East has consistently demonstrated a positive trend in revenue contribution, with the recent quarter seeing it contribute 16% of our total revenue. It's worth noting that our international endeavors, primarily centered in the Middle East, have yielded impressive results, with a remarkable 29% year-over-year increase in revenue. A significant milestone lies ahead as we prepare to pilot our inaugural franchise showroom within the region this year. Looking ahead, our expansion efforts in the Middle East will be bolstered by the infusion of franchise capital, allowing us to further strengthen our foothold in the market.”Sharing his brand’s future plans, Shamlal Ahamed says: “Malabar Gold & Diamonds has an extensive retail network in all six GCC countries, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Since our international expansion in 2008, we have consistently grown in terms of revenue and store count. We are ranked as the 6th largest jewellery retailer globally, with presence in 11 countries. The ambitious expansion plans that we have charted for the Middle East includes strengthening our retail presence in existing regions with the launch of more showrooms as well as expanding our presence to new territories.”Preferences of the clientelesLet's hear from the experts regarding the preferences of Middle East customers. According to Shamlal Ahamed, in the UAE, customers show equal interest in both modern and traditional jewellery designs.“They have embraced and are quite open to global jewellery trends, always looking for the latest designs, whether it's for special occasions or everyday wear. Additionally, we've noticed an increasing preference for solitaires and diamonds, even among the younger demographic. The country is also becoming a significant destination for bridal jewelry shopping, catering to both residents and tourists," he adds.