Dariba Kalan, the jewellery bazar in Delhi, is a Mughal era bazar. When Shahjahan built Chandni Chowk, he built this market for the women of the Mughal household.
Almost every shop here is at least 200 years old. Considered the hub of jewels, ornaments and mementos, Dariba is known for marcasite studded in silver, gold, kundan, polki and diamond jewellery. It is said that the princesses living during the reign of Shah Jahan often purchased gold and jems from Dariba.
“Our shop was established in 1752. It's been more than 250 years. I belong to the eighth generation of this legacy,” says Tarun Gupta, President of Dariba Kalan market.
Today, there are around 400 shops in this market and business runs in hundreds of crores.
80-year-old Mahesh, owner of a jewellery shop, says he's witnessed an immense change in the market in the past 60 years. It is not the same as it was some four-five decades ago. With the market, the business has changed as well.
In the past decade, the jewellery segment has witnessed growth of brands like Tanishq, D' Damas and many others.
When asked about the rising competition from these brands, Mahesh Gupta says brands haven't brought much competition as they have very high ‘making charges'. “We offer quality products at minimum rates. So, the brands can't make a dent in our established businesses.”
Tarun Gupta concurs with Mahesh and says traditional jewellery businesses have very personal relations with customers. The businesses offer competitive prices and equally good products.
Recently, there was a major standoff between the government and the jewellers. The standoff led to a protest by the jewellers and they went on strike for around two months, causing lakhs of crores of loss to both themselves and the Indian government.
Shedding light on the standoff, Tarun says that recently, the Indian government introduced a new tax for us called excise tax. Earlier, excise tax was for manufacturing units. We manufacture products in our shops. It's not a closed-door setup and can't be compared to manufacturing factories.
Besides, the material is transferred from one hand to many hands. It's not an impossible task to keep track of the movement of products and satisfy the inspection officer. So, the complexities of excise shouldn't be imposed on us.
“During the one-and-a-half-month strike, we faced both financial and emotional loss. We see seasonal business and during the strike, the business season was at its peak. The market suffered exponentially as other corporates who didn't participate in the strike made good business in that time,” says Tarun.
Finally, the finance minister accepted the request of jewellers and agreed to make amendments in the new bill.
“We have no issues with the levying of excise duty, but it's about the behaviour of excise officers. We have seen the way they treat jewellers. We don't want to go through it again. They may levy other taxes without excise duty. During the two-month-strike, we suffered a loss of more than Rs 1 crore and I believe the market's loss would have been to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore,” says Mahesh.
Jewellers also talked about the issues related to the market and sent their appeal to the local authority.
“There are some problems in the market. Officers have a special place in their heart for this bazaar. Recently, special CP traffic visited the market and discussed traffic issues. I believe the cause of congestion is not infrastructure but road rule violators. If people won't break rules and follow traffic discipline, there will be no trouble here,” concludes Tarun.
Camera person: Manoj Upadhyaya
Video Editor: Anand
Production Assistant: Vincent Arthur