Dev Shetty, a promising chartered accountant, was making his mark as a turnaround agent, first for Essel Propack in 2005 and then for the PE Group in 2007 in the UK. A seismic rejig in the PE group led to Shetty being entrusted with recovering the balance sheet of a coloured gemstones company as the CFO. Overhauling past practices with a passion for the product, a grading mechanism in gemstone roughs and a focus on auctions, Shetty's novel approach helped the company break even in 15 months.
Soon, Shetty deservedly got promoted to the position of COO. After a decade of building priceless experience at the helm, Shetty decided to move up and forward. Acutely aware of the latent opportunities in the hitherto unorganised coloured gemstone industry and fired up by the possibility of building a distinctive proposition for the global gemstone and jewellery industry, Shetty embarked on the daunting task of starting a new coloured-gemstones mining company in 2017.
"About 99 per cent of the coloured-gemstones industry was unorganised then. FURA Gems was started with the ambition of ensuring complete traceability of our ethically sourced gemstones from the rough to retail," explained Shetty, founder-CEO of FURA Gems Inc. To achieve the goal, FURA Gems focused on scalable resources in already discovered emerald mines in Coscuez, Colombia; ruby mines in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, and Capricorn Sapphire; and Great Northern Mining in Central Queensland, Australia.
"Saving time significantly on exploration, FURA Gems conducted its inaugural auction of emeralds in Colombia and the UAE in March 2021, displaying 115,000 carats of roughs," said Shetty.
Based on two important pillars: investment support from partners aligned with FURA Gem's long-term goal of stabilising the coloured-gemstone market, and Shetty's keen eye for driving efficiency in all spheres of operations, this astounding expansion and speed to market resulted in the drastic reduction of the gestation period from mine to market.
The company will produce 5.5 million carats of Australian sapphires, 6 million carats of Mozambican rubies and 300,000 carats of Colombian emeralds by 2021. For 2022, the respective production estimation for each category stands at 10 million carats, 8 million carats and 400,000 carats, respectively.
With a 1,200-strong workforce, FURA Gems, headquartered in the UAE, is becoming one of the fastest-growing coloured-gemstone mining companies, attentive to organising the industry with an assurance of stable supply.
With FURA making progress on so many fronts, potential stakeholders such as jewellery manufactures, designers, and retailers can expect no better time to explore a collaboration. It's an opportune moment to add to their existing business in profitability as well as topline.
Sourcing steadily and responsibly
"With category diversification comes great market responsibility," said Shetty, implying how uncertain supply, lack of certification and guarantee of origin have deterred the credibility of coloured gemstones in the industry. "Our geological sampling data estimates that the mines will give us steady supply for decades to come. It allows us to increase production at a rate that is conducive and profitable for the trade," he maintained.
On the other hand, millennials are very particular about the story behind any product they purchase. It is where FURA Gems scores well with their mine-of-origin certification. "Our certification will assure that the buyer purchases a conflict-free, ethically sourced and clean product," said Shetty. FURA Gems is adding another layer of assurance by bringing its mines into compliance with the Responsible Jewellery Council standards by 2022.
Another difficulty that end-consumers have in shopping for coloured gemstones is grading. "The trade and consumers have not had a mutually comprehensible way to value a given stone in absolute terms rationally. We hope to change that," said Shetty.
Coloured gemstones are tougher to cut and grade than diamond roughs, primarily due to the incredible range of hues and shades. Price-versus-quality can be an arcane equation, tricky for retailers, confusing and alienating for consumers. FURA is developing a new grading metric that will be simple to comprehend and acts as a reference point for retailers and consumers. Shetty hopes this will build confidence in the category.
Put together, he said, "Our provenance guarantee, robust supply and novel grading mechanism will ensure better price realisation for gemstones at every level of the transaction along the pipeline."
Building mind share
With supply assurance on its agenda, FURA Gems stratifies the global coloured gemstones market with a first-of-its-kind marketing platform called the Fura Marketing Council (FMC). Designed to support the hierarchy of coloured-gemstone players from the rough to retail, the FMC has set aside a budget of $2 million for 2021.
Chosen manufacturers get to be part of this council and benefit from the miner's various initiatives to build a robust pipeline connecting the end–consumer. "The key is to educate and tell a gemstone's origin story to young and curious buyers who are looking for coloured jewels from ethical sources," he explained.
At the industry end, the proof is already rolling in: members worldwide are responding tremendously well. FURA is getting partnership inquiries from Australia, India, the UAE and the United States.
An ethical miner has to be constructive about the value extracted from the source, and the value returned to the community. Putting this philosophy into practice, the company conducts a range of CSR activities. For instance, it has established The FURA Academy for skill-building in Colombia, finances local newspapers and distributes free meals in Australia. It is also building a primary school in Montepuez, close to its ruby mine in Mozambique.
"CSR activities are an indispensable part of FURA's progress," says Shetty proudly. "We believe that our ongoing efforts are ensuring sustainability across our regions of operation. An aware community achieves self-reliance faster. Fura supports all-round community development," he adds.
With FURA's fast executions backed by fast strategies, it is firmly imprinting upon the coloured-gemstone industry across the world and laying the groundwork for a $6 billion market by the end of the decade. Interestingly, he invites competition to imbibe the best mining and trade practices to realise the multi-billion potential of the industry. "More than ever, the coloured-gemstone industry needs to be seen as a clean trade," Shetty signs off.
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