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Driving Platinum Forward

Vaishali Banerjee

If platinum is now a recognised metal in India and is widely-known for its rare and precious values, it is largely due to the process Vaishali Banerjee, Managing Director – India, Platinum Guild International, had set in motion 18 years ago. Her relentless drive for constant innovation and growth has not only steered the platinum story in the right direction but also projected the metal as a timeless product by establishing an empathetic connection with the consumers. Thanks to her relentless efforts, today the desirability of the metal in the mainstream has gone through the roof and that platinum is now present in about 1,207 stores across 212 cities in India and is fast-catching the fancies of the urban young population. In an in-depth interview with Praveer Sinha, she recounted the highlights of platinum’s elaborate journey in India, furture prospects and more.

How has PGI’s journey been in establishing platinum as a distinct precious and jewellery metal in India? How has the public perception evolved in accepting platinum as a core precious metal — like gold and silver? Is platinum now on that same journey?

Today, platinum jewellery in India occupies a very distinctive space among other metals and this is a result of PGI’s strategic focus on the growing affluent urban young, which is a discerning lot. When it comes to jewellery, they desire something meaningful and modern, which matches their sense of individuality. Platinum is a serious consideration for them because of its intrinsic qualities. One of the rarest precious metal on this earth, it is the expression of true love. In terms of designs, platinum jewellery in India is a fusion of relevant international trends and local sensibilities to create contemporary meaningful jewellery. For our consumers platinum jewellery today is an exclusive possession bought to celebrate significant emotional milestones. Platinum is present in about 1,207 stores across 212 cities in India. It’s a growing network both, in terms of number of stores and number of cities.

The demand for platinum jewellery is surging ahead each passing year. What are the growth drivers for platinum jewellery in India?

Growing consumer awareness and acceptance of the metal is truly driving acquisition today. The increasingly widespread behaviour of our consumers to celebrate and mark important life milestones has created a need for a rare metal like platinum to co-exist with other metals. PGI’s holistic marketing programs have fulfilled this unmet consumer need with each of our brands. In case of Platinum Evara, we have integrated it as the perfect gift of love, symbolic of a parent’s heartfelt blessing for their child on their wedding day while Platinum Love Bands are the ultimate symbol of the rare love a couple shares. Both are occupying a space of very high emotional significance.

High acceptance of Platinum Love Bands and Platinum Evara has had a spin-off effect in the self-purchase category. Modern exquisite designs and the exclusivity of the metal have appealed to men and women, therefore creating incremental business from platinum. For retailers, platinum today is a business imperative. Our distribution channels have multiplied with retailers creating strong footholds in tier 2 and tier 3 markets, making platinum available across markets.

“For our consumers platinum jewellery today is an exclusive possession bought to celebrate significant emotional milestones. Platinum is present in about 1,207 stores across 212 cities in India. It’s a growing network both, in terms of number of stores and number of cities.”

What are the requirements for a retailer to become an associate of PGI?

In order to become PGI’s retail partner one must:

  • Comply with our stringent quality assurance program that ensures the consumer a minimum of 95 per cent purity in platinum jewellery
  • Has to source platinum from our authorised platinum manufacturers
  • Adhere to our minimum stocking and display criteria as per our PGI guidelines
  • PGI works with a renowned third party and has specific tailor-made program that checks the purity of the metal from start to finish. Under this program, only the pieces that clearly use the 950 logo.
  • All PGI manufacturers have to comply with the stringent audit process and authorised retailers have to comply with the quality assurance guidelines and regulations

Every piece of platinum jewellery, however small, carries the ‘Pt 950’ mark which signifies 95 per cent purity. PGI invests in ensuring that the consumer’s expectations on the highest quality are met under the guilds program.

Platinum has made huge inroads in tier 1 cities, especially amongst the millennials. How do you plan to grow in tier 2 and 3 cities to tap the huge opportunity present in these markets?

Platinum has moved beyond tier 1 cities; it’s currently available in 212 cities. Increased digital consumption has led to increased awareness and aspiration among our target audience. Irrespective of the city or region they live in, they have access to the newest international trends and desire to own them. When it comes to jewellery, platinum perfectly addresses their need in design and relevance.

The organised retailers have indeed seen success with platinum in cities and they see tremendous potential in tier 2 and tier 3 cities too. Today, platinum is an integral part of their expansion strategy. To fuel this growth, we aim to further amp up our digital strategy that focuses on consumer engagement and experience at all crucial touchpoints. We will continue to drive various in-store conversion programs to bridge the gap between consumer desire and demand.

 “The organised retailers have indeed seen success with platinum in cities and they see tremendous potential in tier 2 and tier 3 cities too. Today, platinum is an integral part of their expansion strategy.”

Keeping in mind the target group i.e. the millennials that usually prefer low-cost, light-weight and everyday jewellery that is high on design and aesthetics, how does PGI deal with pricing and designing strategies, to grow demand in India?

Platinum scores very high on design! It takes extremely skilled craftsmen to turn this rare metal into a beautiful piece of jewellery, thereby claiming premiumness and aspirational quality. Our differentiated design philosophy offers versatility and exclusivity to wearer. The designs are inspired by international trends that make each piece unique and distinctive. For instance, our latest collection of Platinum Evara is inspired by global trends of ‘Sleek Sophistication’ and ‘Modern Glam’. Fashion forward design elements like geometric shapes, delicate meshes, in-trend tassels and multi-layered florals have been infused to make this collection complement the sartorial choices of today’s woman.

Could you give us the breakup of the sales, percentage wise between different platinum jewellery categories available at the retail level?

Platinum Love Bands accounts for 60 to 65 per cent of our sales which was our first category and the balance is shared by Platinum Evara and Platinum Men’s.

PGI has launched Platinum Evara in 2015 – targeting the bridal jewellery market. Could you highlight the growth in this segment till now?

Platinum Evara was launched in 2015 for consumers and it was clearly positioned as the ancillary or a trousseau must-have, given as the ‘gift of love’ from family and elders on the occasion of their wedding. The brand carries an emotion that is timeless and unique with a voice that is contemporary, thereby creating a differentiated platform. Platinum Evara has caught the fancy of young couples who desire more contemporary wearable jewellery designs to suit their post-wedding lifestyle. Today, Platinum Evara is available at over 200 stores from just 80 stores in 2017.

Platinum jewellery really fits the bill when it comes to e-commerce because of it huge appeal to the young buyers. How does PGI strategise to leverage social media in today’s heavily online dependent age?

We use social media to engage and build conversations with our customers to really draw them into our category. Platinum is aspirational, evolved and progressive yet understated. It takes time for a consumer to really discover and understand platinum. Therefore, our digital strategy is focused on building an in-depth understanding of platinum, generating metal awareness, engagement, conversations and advocacy ultimately driving brand love.

Each of our brands is backed by insightful digital campaigns that have relevant and meaningful conversation with the consumer, especially when it comes to design.  The strategy is to establish our roots in the e-commerce space, similar to our on-ground approach, which is selling platinum jewellery through our retail partners. Traditional e-commerce players like Jewelove, Bluestone and Caratlane e-tail platinum jewellery. Today, large retailers are also looking at an omni-channel strategy and opportunity for platinum jewellery.

How has this fiscal year shaped up so far for platinum jewellery and what is your projection of the state of the market and demand in 2019?

This year has been volatile with some good quarters and less. We expect the market to deliver over 20 per cent growth.

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