Circa 1992- A 21yr old boy used to carry diamonds in his pocket and sit under a banyan tree near Opera House, Mumbai- waiting for brokers to take him to prospective buyers. Cut to 2008: Ghanshyam Dholakia promoted Hari Krishna Exports bagged the GJEPCI (Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council of India) award for 'Best exporter of cut and polished diamonds in India' for sixth consecutive year. He tells YourStory that sparkle of diamonds may attract a customer but it is the glow of trust and commitment, which lightens the path of diamond trading and brings repeat clientele.
Why an entrepreneur? When did you get the first idea of this business?
My family is into diamond cutting and polishing business but the buying and selling activities were limited to Surat, my hometown. I came to Mumbai in 1990 to learn the whole ecosystem of diamond trading: importing rough diamonds, cleaning, coloring, boiling, assortment, cutting and polishing, pricing, shipment charges, custom duties, and finally exporting it to different countries etc. I worked for a diamond company for two years and learned the nitty-gritty of the trade. In 1992, I established my own company called Hari Krishna Exports and opened a sales and marketing office in Mumbai.
Something on starting years
Initial years were tough. I use to carry diamonds in my bag and sit under a tree near Opera House, Mumbai, waiting for brokers to take me to various export firms. There was no security or guarantee and everything worked on the trust factor. I started with manufacture and trading of round diamonds less than 0.18 Ct in size. In the very first fiscal year (1992-93), I did business of Rs1cr.
Turning point in your business
It came in year 1994 when one of my customers from Israel referred our company to his international clients. Our export increased dramatically thereafter as we surpassed their expectations in quality of the product and timely delivery. 2001 was another major turning point as we started manufacturing and trading of diamonds in the size range of 0.18 Ct to 0.96Ct and above. For the fiscal year 2002-03, we registered 200% growth on YoY basis.
Did at any point you felt like giving it up?
Never! Yes, I have made mistakes but learned from it and grown wiser. In 1993, a customer duped me with Rs27 lakh of product. I had nothing left to trade or sell. But, that day I learned to divide and apportion my risks so that a non-payment or a defaulter doesn't stop my business.
What drives you?
Family support and employees. One should always value relationships. I haven't changed my accountant, who has been there with me from 1993. Or, for that matter, my bank whose loan rates are higher than other banks but I haven't left them because they gave me loan of Rs25 lakh in 1993 when nobody was ready to invest a penny in my dreams.
On business - the differentiators of your business
I would say developing trust 360 degrees: with clients, banks, vendors, and employees. The employee turn over of the company is zero. They either retire or start their own business but nobody leaves for salary issues or work conditions. We run our own kitchen-both at Surat and Mumbai to provide lunch to 6000 people free of cost on a daily basis. Manager and factory employee eats the same food. We have never defaulted on payment and always fulfilled our commitment on timely delivery of the products.
Growth drivers / vision for your enterprise
To grow and be best in the business. I started HK Jewels company in 2002 and launched HK Designs in 2005. We have been winning the best exporter award in cut and polished diamonds in India for past six years and with god's grace will win the award for other four years too. Our KISNA brand of diamonds, which was launched in market in 2005, is now available with 1002 retail jewellers across Mumbai, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Key Requirements to grow your business
We are looking for direct suppliers of rough diamonds as our output is depended on the import of rough diamonds. We are also looking for manpower in market research, online selling, marketing, and modernize our IT infrastructure.