This 108-yr-old Jewellery Brand Continues to Wow Mumbaikers with its Glam & Glitter
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Waman Hari Pethe Jewellers (WHP) has been through ups and downs of the business and seen a lot in the last one century, but has managed to retain the name and fame it earned over the years. It started off with a pearl trading company and steadily grew into a one-stop shop for gold, diamond, silver and pearl ornaments.
The INR 900-crore company aptly boasts of its tryst with royalty for impressing Queen Elizabeth with its intricate designs.
The list of WHP’s celebrity customers is big and includes actor Raj Kapoor’s wife Krishna Kapoor, Indian classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj, and even columnist Shobha De.
In a conversation with the Entrepreneur India, Aditya Pethe, Director of WHP shared his experience of taking forward its 108-year-old legacy and adopting to the changing tastes of modern India.
From One store to a Chain
WHP was set up by Aditya’s great grandfather Waman Hari Pethe and his brother Ganesh Pethe in 1909. The Pethe brothers initial traded in pearls and then ventured into a jewellery manufacturing business.
For almost three decades they ran their business from one store in South Mumbai. Later another store was opened at Dadar, Mumbai.
After trying their hands at the US and Japanese market during the early 2000s, WHP’s partners decided to focus on the Indian retail market. And today, the brand has about over 20 stores, including those in Goa and Madhya Pradesh.
“We didn’t have any business plan as such. It just happened that the retail sector was gaining momentum with the concept of chain stores being accepted. The economy opened up and the governments along with banks were ready to finance traditional businesses,” Pethe said.
Pethe brothers understand the ‘You need to go to the customer’ concept very well. However, according to his 25-years of experience in the industry, a retail store will grow for the first three-four years and then it will hit a growth plateau. So his expert advice was, “if you want to grow, expand to a new market.”
However, with high excise and import duty and demonetization, the first half of this decade has not been very good for the gems and jewellery business. And hence, the enterprise has taken a break from its pan India retail store ambitions.
WHP, till date, is a family-run business and this has been the brand’s strength. But this has also become its challenge.
“Our youngest partner, my nephew, is 20-something while our eldest partner, my uncle, is 80-year-old. So, every time we want to take a business-related decision, everybody has to be onboard. And it’s a tough task,” said Pethe jokingly.
Another task of sorts for the company is to maintain its margin, which comes including the making charges. “For some weird reason, Indians do not like to pay for making charges,” he shared adding, “neither gold or diamonds are investment instruments. It’s premium jewellery. So stop asking about its investment returns.”
There is also a misconception that WHP is a traditional Maharastrian jewellery brand, selling tushis and naths. Pethe clarified that the brand was trying hard to break the myth and clarified that only 20 per cent of inventory comprised traditional local jewellery as the demand is very occasion-based.
“A fusion of traditional and contemporary jewellery does very well. And hence we came up with a Navanya collection, where we stick to our traditional motives and have blended it with contemporary styles.”
The New-age WHP
This hasn’t stopped the company from growing. Early last year, the brand in a bid to go digital, started its e-commerce website. Though the contribution of the portal is minuscule (about INR 5 crore in FY 2016-17), WHP is bullish on the model.
“It is a very touch-and-feel industry. The consumer does not have the mind to buy expensive products online, but my idea is we will get there.” With an average ticket size of INR 30,000, the portal has allowed WHP to venture out of its traditional geographical boundaries.
Additionally, the WHP has also started Izaara, a sterling silver jewellery brand to cater to the non-gold segment.