How two entrepreneurs’ friendship served as a building block for this multi-crore jewellery brand
If a friendship could lay the foundation of a profitable business, Jaipur-basedset the perfect precedent of how trust and understanding could pave the way for a success story.
The jewellery brand is headed by entrepreneur duo Ritesh Badaya and Prashant Sharma, who met in a Pune college while pursuing a language course in German.
What’s strange is that none of them had ever entertained the idea of starting a business — even Ritesh whose father had a gemstone business. As a child, he fondly remembered hanging out at his fathers’ office after school and watching him pore over purple-hued amethyst stones. The sight of artisans polishing crude stones tirelessly until they turned into a thing of beauty was etched clearly in his mind.
However, as life would later tell him, the experience lit a small fire in his heart that would guide him to discover his passion for gemstones.
When he moved out of his home for college in 2003, Ritesh says, he started exploring the culture and heritage of Pune’s markets and noticed the potential for an authentic jewellery brand like the one his family was running.
“As the idea took seed in my mind, I considered my options and discussed it with Prashant,” says Ritesh. Meanwhile, Prashant, who had no interest in setting up a business, had plans to move to Germany for further studies
The first taste of success
Ritesh went on to set up a small jewellery business in Mumbai, but little did he know that he had an arduous path ahead of him. “I often accompanied Ritesh on short business trips to places like Mumbai. He lured me with promises of staying in good hotels and exploring Mumbai. I had no interest in business, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel,” jokes Prashant.
From travelling in packed local trains in the scorching heat to waiting patiently outside customers’ doors for hours, Ritesh didn’t mind getting his hands dirty to achieve his dreams. It didn’t hurt that Prashant was always there to support him.
But, as is the case with most good things, business ran its course. Later, Prashant moved to Germany as he had planned earlier. However, he couldn’t follow through with his plan for further studies and returned to Jaipur in 2005 where he started a business in the tourism sector due to his love for the German language. The two friends kept in touch, supporting each other in their own ways.
“Some time later, I met a German couple in Agra and pitched to them a proposal for a jewellery business with Ritesh. We got them onboard and visited Germany, where we collaborated with a few designers,” says Prashant. They managed to sell their first batch of products and got Euro 5 of the total business trip profit. The amount may haven’t been much, but it laid the foundation of what would turn out to be a successful partnership.
The two friends again parted ways to go their separate paths, until Ritesh approached Prashant with a proposal to launch a heritage jewellery brand. Given their history and bonding, it wasn’t long before Prashant decided to join Ritesh. The duo launched the company in December 2012, but officially started operations in 2013 by dealing in jewellery made of gemstones, gold and silver. And, since then there has been no looking back.
Shining on the path of success
Working with a group of around 100 artisans, Nirvana Gems & Jewels is now a global brand whose clientele includes several international TV channels, boutiques, retailers, wholesalers and e-commerce platforms.
But, the journey to the top was riddled with several challenges. The foremost of these challenges was a lack of funds because of which they couldn’t even have a regular office.
“As we were a fledgling business, it was difficult to gain suppliers' trust. We had trouble getting quality resources as most suppliers and artisans didn't trust us due to our lack of experience," says Ritesh.
Not the ones to give up, the Nirvana Gems & Jewels team overcame the challenge by honouring commitments, which helped them build a good reputation in the market.
"We keep market reputation at the top of our priority list. If the market is with you, the sky's the limit," says Prashant. Over the years, their efforts started paying as they built better sales strategies and connected with the right people in the right places.
As the COVID-19 pandemic upended businesses across the globe, Nirvana Gems & Jewels was no exception. The founders describe their experience of operating during the crisis as one which helped them come out of their comfort zone.
Before the pandemic struck, they used to travel overseas to do the TV shows which was very exciting and refreshing for them. However, the pandemic restricted that too.
"When COVID-19 started impacting our sales, we opened a live streaming studio in our office and continued to work with TV shows," they say. Their quick thinking soon reaped rich rewards and Nirvana Gems & Jewels ended up clocking Rs 42 crore in annual revenue in 2020-21, up from Rs 21 crore in 2019-20. The two are also working on their e-commerce platform Gemshiner Inc, which is currently catering to clients in the US.
A gem of an idea
Talking about their future plans, Ritesh and Prashant say they are chasing an ambitious target of becoming a Rs 100-crore company by 2023 and make Gemshiner Inc a Rs 50-crore platform by 2025.
“And if needed, we would like to launch an IPO also to raise funds with a minimum of 20 percent profit,” says Prashant. But, a purpose that’s close to both of their hearts is giving back to society and helping artisans lead more empowered lives.
"We want to leverage technology in the Indian jewellery market and support rural women by providing them livelihood opportunities. We are also planning to educate our brokers, so that they have better knowledge about the jewellery market and can negotiate better deals in the future," adds Ritesh.
Ask them how they will be able to nail these ambitious yet challenging goals, “with our solid communication and mutual understanding,” they both quip.