When Stephen Lussier talks about the Indian market, his optimism is clearly evident. So much so that the CEO of Forevermark, the premium diamond brand from De Beers Group, the world's largest diamond company, is now betting money on a new assessment facility in the country.
It will be the second one after the Forevermark Diamond Institute in Antwerp, Belgium, where diamonds are graded. The facility, which will initially aim at a capacity of 300 to 350 thousand diamonds per annum in four years, is likely to be operational by the first quarter (January to March) of 2015.
"It is a significant commitment and we're hoping to invest about $7 million in the project," Lussier told Business Today. Like the Antwerp facility, this one will also cater to the company's 12 markets globally. India is the third-biggest market for London-based Forevermark after the US and China, and Sachin Jain, the company's India President, aims to move past China soon.
Despite a weaker-than-expected festival season in India, and what Lussier calls a difficult year for jewellers in general, business was good for Forevermark. "We increased our footprint by 50 per cent and sales by around 70 per cent in the year," he said, adding that the company has performed well in the country since its launch in 2011.
Forevermark, which primarily caters to women in the 28 to 42 age group, now intends to reach out to them in more geographies and increase the number of 'doors' (retail outlets) this year. The company closed 2013 with about 120 doors (in India), which is about 10 per cent of its doors globally. "Which is also India's share in the global diamond market," says Lussier. "We're increasing our share in line with (India's) growth in the world."
In 2014, the company expects to grow to about 150 doors in India, including in newer markets such as Surat in Gujarat and Nagpur in Maharashtra. The company closed 2013 with 1,270 retail doors globally. The brand, which is currently present in 19 cities in India and is the strongest in the southern part of the country, will enter five new markets this year. "The better performing markets have been smaller markets and they are already at par with urban markets," said Jain, adding that expansion in Tier-I and Tier-II markets took place in 2013.
According to Lussier, however, the diamond supply is already constrained and is likely to get even more constrained moving ahead. "It is likely that diamond prices will continue to rise," he said.