Meet the handcrafted jewellery startup that's the brand of choice for celebrities
To make a mark in the overly-saturated Indian jewellery market without any formal training, traditional backing, or strong reliance on wedding designs is an impressive feat. Sisters Mamta and Vidhi Gupta have done it with élan with their handcrafted jewellery brand Zariin.
In 2010, the sisters decided to follow their passion for jewellery by creating offbeat handcrafted gold-dipped pieces that played on the natural textures of semi-precious stones, with an initial investment of Rs 5 lakh each.
The label, established in the US, has since shifted base to Delhi. Today, Zariin is available in 21 countries and retails in over 200 stores worldwide.
In India, Zariin is available at offline and online stores including Ogaan, Carma, Aza, Jaypore, Nykaa Fashion, Myntra, and more. The signature look - raw, uncut gemstones dipped in 22K gold - appeals to clients across the board as daily-wear accessories that are affordable yet luxurious.
Zariin is one of few semi-precious jewellery brands that witnessed a tremendous growth in business - over 2.5X since the previous year - during the pandemic. The founders credit this to their “ready acceptance of digital mediums and efficient customer service”.
Their individual training and expertise in business also held them in good stead. Vidhi, an alumnus of Kelley School of Business, is the Creative Director who brings design acumen on board, while also heading operations and systems.
Mamta, a graduate of Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce, handles business development and financial aspects, as part of which she heads the digital marketing teams, global sales, and liaises with international buyers, agents and sales teams.
In an interview with YourStory Weekender, Vidhi and Mamta speak about their steady growth last year, why their brand is a celebrity favourite, and the future of the jewellery retail industry.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
YourStory (YS): How did you make a niche for yourself in a market that views gold only as an investment, preferring traditional, heavy designs to modern ones?
Mamta and Vidhi Gupta (MVG): We have worked against the industry standard from the beginning. We introduced uncut gemstones and gold-plated pieces at a time when mostly traditional gold and polished gemstones were sold. Though the market size was small, our unique offerings were welcomed by discerning fashion circles for their freshness. Slowly, with the adoption of some key steps, our mass appeal also grew.
Mamta and Vidhi Gupta, the Founders of Zariin, believe jewellery is 'an especially easy item to buy' as it is independent of size.
We offer lifetime warranty on our gold plating, which entitles Zariin consumers to get their jewellery re-plated free of charge, any time. This reassures our customers of longevity. Simultaneously, we also launched an awareness campaign through digital and social media to educate customers on the wearability of our designs, leading to a loyal community of Zariin buyers, who would wear our label with pride.
A number of design awards in our early years, coupled with our Real Women campaigns, where women from different walks of life were styled in Zariin for everyday looks, took our brand to the next level.
YS: Why do you feel Zariin is popular with celebrities?
MVG: Sonam Kapoor was the first celebrity spotted in one of our necklaces. We were so excited that we had to pinch ourselves to make sure it wasn’t a dream! The day Sonam’s picture appeared in a magazine, we were inundated with calls and emails from India and abroad. Soon after, Priyanka Chopra and Nargis Fakhri also donned our jewellery for their movie promotions. In fact, Nargis even wore our jewellery on an episode of Coffee with Karan.
We have been featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine when Taapsee Pannu wore us, and Elle Magazine with Padma Lakshmi.
The founders of Zariin believe the jewellery label is popular with celebrities because of the wearability of their designs.
Sarah Jane Diaz wore quite a few Zariin jewels in the popular web series Taandav. When the show was aired, our Instagram was buzzing with people sending us pictures of Sarah, because they had recognised our designs on her!
We believe that Zariin is popular with celebrities because of the wearability of our designs. Our jewellery is minimal and each celebrity wears it differently, showing their unique creativity. Zariin jewellery is easy to style and versatile, and celebrities are very supportive of homegrown labels nowadays.
YS: How did the pandemic affect your business?
MVG: Initially our business came to a grinding halt, but we were quick to adapt. Within two months, we were able to relaunch our website, with a more efficient and optimised customer interface and superior technology. We also focused on bonding with our social media community through live chats and other interactive communications.
Further, we began focusing on use of healing gemstones in our designs, along with Zodiac and talisman jewellery, and other customisable elements like charms and DIY pieces.
Our online infrastructure and systems were already in place pre-pandemic, as we have been in direct B2C since 2014. So, we were quick on the learning curve and scaled up fast.
When the lockdown lifted in May 2020, the customers were back to shopping in full force! We had to ramp up our production cycles, and expand our customer service and sales teams to provide timely responses. Our operations team also expanded, so we could update our catalogues periodically, ensure top-notch quality control, and timely deliveries. We also created a business and data analysis team.
During the festive season, we were shipping close to 1,000 orders a day. In fact, we had to move to a new office space in the middle of the pandemic to accommodate our growing team, now numbering close to 25 people, with social distancing in place.
YS: What do you think was the reason for your tremendous growth last year?
MVG: The online space has witnessed huge growth as customers have increasingly moved online for shopping needs. People are buying more frequently - an average customer has bought almost three times from us in the last one year, double the frequency recorded earlier.
Jewellery is an especially easy item to buy as it is independent of size and other issues that deter people from buying online.
Our pieces also became perk-me-up items for Zoom calls. In fact, for the first time, our necklaces became more popular than our earrings. This may be on account of mask usage or because waist-up dressing became a legitimate concept. Our pieces have also been popular gifting options with personalised messaging and attractive luxurious packaging.
We believe the customer is looking for meaningful jewellery, pieces with aesthetic value, and an emotional connect. This is why our Zodiac range and Chakra jewellery range, to be used as daily affirmations, were hugely popular.
The founders believe that the label's signature look - raw, uncut gemstones dipped in 22K gold - appeals to clients across the board.
YS: What percentage of your sales are to customers abroad?
MVG: India is our biggest customer base, with 80 percent of our sales coming from here. In the international market, we sell through high-end stores like Saks 5th Avenue in the Middle East, Takashimaya and Hankyu Department Stores in Japan, and Anthropologie in the US. We have an engaged audience outside India who buys from our web store directly, but our digital marketing campaigns are currently focused on the growing Indian market.
YS: What have been the biggest challenges you have faced in the past year?
MVG: We miss the face-to-face contact with our teams and artisans. With virtual calls, we have scaled the distance, but the in-person communication is irreplaceable. Also, with frequent lockdowns, we had to deal with closed factories and supply shocks, which hurt us because our customers were looking to buy products. Thankfully, they remained patient and supportive.
YS: What do you think is the future of jewellery retail?
MVG: We believe that jewellery is poised for high growth. Personalisation is the way forward. Technology can optimise the customer experience and create new dimensions, such as augmented reality and AI to help customers with virtual try-ons. Mindful pricing is key to ensure a long-term relationship with the customer, so they become repeat buyers.