From a textile store to building a Rs 10,000 Cr jewellery brand: the journey of Kalyan Jewellers
It’s a success story that can inspire many. It’s a story of how thinking big and dreaming big can make you big in life, with proper planning and hard work.
TS Kalyanaraman, Founder of Kalyan Jewellers, has not only built a successful business empire but is also a high-flyer who has contributed immensely to the jewellery industry.
Coming from a background of textiles, Kalyanaraman (72) used to help his father in their decades-old textile business in Thrissur, Kerala. However, soon he realised that there was a lot more potential in the jewellery segment and that it needs to be organised.
In an interaction with SMBStory, his son, Ramesh Kalyanaraman, Executive Director, Kalyan Jewellers says,
“My grandfather and father were in the textile business. In Thrissur, there is a lane of jewellery shops where people come to shop for jewellery and we had our textile retail shop adjacent to that lane. My father always thought of entering the jewellery industry and some of our regular customers too encouraged him. Thus, aspiration and influence, both led him to start Kalyan Jewellers.”
By running his textile business from the jewellery market for a long time, Kalyanaraman had developed good relations with other entrepreneurs from the industry and he connected well with the goldsmiths to get an idea of the business.
From textile to glitter industry
Kalyanaraman used his personal savings of Rs 25 lakh and took a bank loan of Rs 50 lakh to start Kalyan Jewellers in 1993.
“My father always dreamt of organising the jewellery segment. Earlier, there used to be small shops where jewellery was not stocked. People used to go by the booklet and trust the seller while buying expensive ornaments. My father wanted to bring in complete transparency into the business.”
To ensure transparency, the first thing Kalyanaraman thought of was putting all the stocks on the shelves for the customers to see. Therefore, he started with a large format store, spread across an area of 4,000 sqft, which turned out to be a big hit.
Ramesh says that at their store in Thrissur, customers from neighbouring cities like Palakkad in Mallapuram region of Kerala, and even from other states started visiting. For seven years, Kalyan Jewellers was operating from one store only after which it opened another store in Palakkad.
Expansion and lessons learned
At the new store in Palakkad, things did not go as smooth as expected.
“Our footfall in Thrissur stores had many customers from Palakkad and we thought it would be a right decision to open a store there. But when we stepped into the market, we noticed that the buying behaviour of the customers was different from what is was in Thrissur. With this, we realised the importance of hyperlocal approach," Ramesh tells SMBStory.
Localisation in the jewellery industry is very important, says Ramesh. What is sold in one region may not do well in another region even if the customers have migrated, as the tastes and preferences vary. This was the lesson learned by Kalyanaraman and his sons Ramesh and Rajesh, who had by this time joined the business.
Kalyanaraman launched the company with the aim of having two showrooms, one each for his sons. However, the family went on to expand the brand’s footprint across five countries with hyperlocal strategy by providing jewellery pieces which blended well with the consumer base of the market and took the popularity of the brand beyond anyone’s imagination.
Kalyan Jewellers then expanded to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu in 2003, and today the company has grown into one of India’s largest and most trusted jewellery retailer with approximately 8,000 employees and 140 showrooms across India and West Asia. Kalyan Jewellers now clocks a turnover of Rs 10,000 crore.
The company employs around 2,000 artisans (directly and indirectly) from across India.
In 2017, Kalyan Jewellers joined hands with Mumbai-based Candere, an online jewellery brand, to augment its presence in the online space.
Initial struggles and challenges
When Kalyanaraman entered the business, the first and foremost challenge was how to deal with the unorganised segment.
“Earlier, people did not worry about the purity of the gold. There was no strictness on the invoice and making charges were hidden. When my father entered the business, the initial two to three years were difficult. He had to explain to the customers and educate them on the purity of gold, hallmarked jewellery, and a lot more.”
By 1996, Kalyan Jewellers used the print media to launch awareness campaigns on the purity of the yellow metal. The jewellery brand, over a period of time, launched multiple public service announcement (PSA) campaigns like ‘My Gold My Right, BIS hallmarking, and 4-Level Assurance Plan to spread awareness among consumers.
The company is a pioneer in introducing detailed price tags, thus demystifying making charges and providing increased transparency to customers. It also introduced the concept of neighbourhood customer service centers in the jewellery industry under ‘My Kalyan’ brand.
Talking about the challenges, Ramesh says that even after so many years, challenges remain the same. Even though the number of unorganised players has reduced in the market, it is still in the ratio of 80 percent unorganised and 20 percent organised.
The way ahead
Kalyan Jewellers has earmarked Rs 300 crore towards expansion in key markets across five states. This is in line with the company’s articulated strategy of investing in market penetration to touch 250 showrooms in five years.
The company plans to open eight showrooms across south India. The new launches will include two showrooms each in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, and one showroom each in Kerala and Telangana.
(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)