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How TS Kalyanaraman greets everyone clearly shows that he belongs to the family of priests and saints. His venture, Kalyan Jewellers, headquartered in Thrissur in the state of Kerala, is one of the largest jewellery manufacturer distributors in India.
The company boasts of its strong roots, of over a century, in the business of textile trading, distribution and wholesaling. TS Kalyanaraman recalls, “I entered the family textile business in 1972 after my graduation. Later, I diversified into jewellery in 1993. People suggested us to start a jewellery business and have textile and jewellery under one umbrella.”
He started this business with Rs 25 lakh while borrowing the rest from a bank. Starting with the first jewellery showroom in 1993, Kalyan Jewellers has been enjoying a long-standing presence in the market for the past two decades. It has set industry benchmarks in quality, transparent pricing and innovation. “At that time, jewellery shops were very small. Jewellers used to take a month to deliver an order. Nobody was concerned about quality. We taught customers to buy gold of pure quality.
We barcoded the price of each ornament,” reminisces Kalyanaraman. He is joined by his two sons in the business. “My elder son, Rajesh, is looking after purchase and finance and younger son, Ramesh, is looking after marketing and operations. I check whether all shops are running well,” says Kalyanaraman. Talking about joining the family business, Ramesh says, “For the last 108 years, our family has been into business. Automatically, we didn’t have anything else to take other than the business. My forefathers, my uncles, my father all have been into business.”
“From the first store, Rajesh got involved in the business. From second showroom, Ramesh started joining him,” says Kalyanaraman. Counting employees as his biggest asset, Kalyanaraman says, “I look after their health and everything.” On the same note, Ramesh adds, “In our 8,500-member team, all are experienced and have been with us for the past few years.” Talking about challenges,Ramesh says, “We faced challenges because we were against the tide. When the field was full of offers, discounts, etc, we maintained same rates.
Now, customers know they can get cheated on the pretext of offers.” “We are in between the traditional and modern retailing and this is our advantage. Traditional retailers don’t have thebandwidth and national retailers have same designs at different outlets. We are not like them.
We give localised products. We are a national cum traditional player,” says Rajesh. Today, Kalyan has emerged as a strong national player with presence across South India, Maharashtra, Gujarat, National Capital Region (NCR) and Punjab, and has a network of 83 exclusive showrooms in India and West Asia. It targets to have 100 showrooms by the end of the year. Last year, Kalyan Jewellers clocked Rs 10,000-crore turnover. Although the company is not into huge exports, it has 13 showrooms outside India.
The company intends to enter Qatar and three Indian states this year. “We are entering West Bengal, Rajasthan and Odisha,” informs Ramesh. Recently, Warburg Pincus, a leading global PE investor, invested $200 million for a minority stake in the company. Kalyan Jewellers has been aggressively expanding its distribution network after the recent equity infusion. The company is investing Rs 800 crore this fiscal to open 22 showrooms in India and West Asia. The Jewellery chain plans to enhance its distribution network by 30 per cent and is targeting revenue of Rs 13,000 crore by the end of the financial year. The company is also ramping up manufacturing operations and plans to have India’s biggest production house by 2017.
Sharing his perspective on online jewellery retailing, Ramesh says, “If you want to buy something for yourself, you go to the store; but if you want to buy something for others, you do that online. Online is there, but the ticket size for online is very small. It’s below Rs20,000 on an average. Weare also coming into online, but it will serve a miniscule segment as our turnover is very huge. A customer isalways the epicentre of all our initiatives.”
This article first appered in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (August, 2015 Issue).