Senco’s jewellery for men contributes 15-20% to the Rs 2,500 crore turnover: Suvankar Sen, CEO of company tells BrandSutra
Senco’s jewellery for men contributes 15-20% to the Rs 2,500 crore turnover: Suvankar Sen, CEO of company tells BrandSutra

SUVANKAR SEN, CEO, Senco Gold & Diamonds, the 37-year-old Senco scion, lost his father Shaankar Sen to COVID-19 last July, and suddenly had a lot of responsibility on his young shoulders. Here, he recounts in his own words, the challenges and opportunities of running the business ever since he joined it in 2007, tackling the lockdown with technology and being in the business of creating happiness and satisfaction

I began with brand-building…

I joined the business in 2007, after completing my MBA from IMT,Ghaziabad. My first task was brand-building. The business had been built over generations, and my father had made it a robust company.

Innovation had already started, with my father introducing the franchisee model, but the brand needed to be more visible. At that time, our overall turnover was around Rs 100 crore. We went over how we wanted togrow, increase the number of our stores, and build the brand. I took charge of the marketing budget, tried out innovations in marketing, be it outdoors, TV, in-film branding, integration with TV serials, etc., all new concepts at that time. I am thankful that my father was a very open-minded person, and let me try out these new things.

The first business challenge I faced was the crisis due to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008. The same year, I got married. From my wife, I got an insight into a young woman’s mind, which I adapted intothe brand strategy. So along with gold jewellery, I started focusing a lot on diamond jewellery too, as I realized young women were keen to try out new kinds of jewellery such as diamond and platinum. We even introduced silver and fashion jewellery. As a legacy brand, it was a kind of hara-kiri, breaking the taboo. But the whole idea was that a consumer could get any kind of jewellery under one umbrella at Senco, and it worked.

Beyond Bengal’s borders…

In 2009-10, the strategy I adopted was taking the brand to other parts of the country, beyond West Bengal. Those who design our jewellery - the karigars - are all Bengalis from the surrounding villages of Kolkata. There is goodwill attached to their intricate craftsmanship and traditional jewellery designed in Kolkata, and it would be worthwhile to build on it. So our journey of building a brand on a pan-India level began with our first store outside East India in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar Market and our firstfranchisee outside Bengal in Odisha. We also invested in technology,bringing in high end enterprise resource planning (ERP), a software that connected all our operations.

Then, we had private equity investment into our organization, which was one of a kind in the jewellery industry – having an external investor who believed in our journey. All the time, my father gave me moral support and encouragement, actively running the business himself, but hand-holding me and being involved in all my decisions. Today, our turnover is almost Rs 2,500 crore - interestingly, our range of men’s jewellery, Aham, contributes about 15-20% to it. Our USP is that jewellery can be lightweight, yet very intricate and unique. We also cater to customers whose affordability ranges from very low price to very high.

THE BOOK-LOVER
I am an avid reader of books, and I try to keep myself motivated through acquiring knowledge and positive thinking. Business, philosophy, history, sociology, etc., - I cover the entire spectrum. I tend to read two or three books together – picking up one or the other as I wish. Currently, I am reading ‘Hormegeddon’ by Bill Bonner, which says an excess of anything is bad and leads to destruction, much like what our Hindu shastras say. Another book I am reading is ‘Who Not How’ by Dan Sullivan and Dr Benjamin Hardy, on the importance of team work. Entrepreneurship is not possible alone; I need to have a team to execute it. I might have the vision, I might have the ideas, but I have to have the ‘whos’ – my team, that will allow me to get to that vision.
BEJEWELLED…
In the last two-three years, I realized that since I sell jewellery, I must wear it too! So I wear a platinum bracelet gifted by my wife on our 10th anniversary, another gold bracelet gifted by my in-laws. I wear certain astrological gemstones, as I believe in the energies of the world, the science and chemistry behind it. I also wear a gold chain my grandmother had given me in my childhood, and another chain given by my parents, with a pendant.

Box

THE BOOK-LOVER

I am an avid reader of books, and I try to keep myself motivated through acquiring knowledge and positive thinking. Business, philosophy, history, sociology, etc., - I cover the entire spectrum. I tend to read two or three books together – picking up one or the other as I wish. Currently, I am reading ‘Hormegeddon’ by Bill Bonner, which says an excess of anything is bad and leads to destruction, much like what our Hindu shastras say. Another book I am reading is ‘Who Not How’ by Dan Sullivan and Dr Benjamin Hardy, on the importance of team work. Entrepreneurship is not possible alone; I need to have a team to execute it. I might have the vision, I might have the ideas, but I have to have the ‘whos’ – my team, that will allow me to get to that vision.

BEJEWELLED…

In the last two-three years, I realized that since I sell jewellery, I must wear it too! So I wear a platinum bracelet gifted by my wife on our 10th anniversary, another gold bracelet gifted by my in-laws. I wear certain astrological gemstones, as I believe in the energies of the world, the science and chemistry behind it. I also wear a gold chain my grandmother had given me in my childhood, and another chain given by my parents, with a pendant.

Life in the lockdown...

The lockdown period has been one of the most challenging times of my life, as I lost my father to COVID-19 last July. I did a lot of positive thinking in the early days of the lockdown, trying to keep my team positive and motivated and as we come out of the lockdown, it has paid off. I actually recruited new people, and opened 2-3 new showrooms post lockdown. During lockdown, our focus was also on growing omni-channel sales. Video calling was one such tool, as customers were scared to come out of their homes to buy jewellery. Through video calls, our teams were showcasing all the products. Gold as an asset class did very well even in this time and to enable people to buy gold easily, we started an online booking system. Anyone could go to our website, select the store they wanted to buy from, and book a product; later they could buy it online or go to the store and buy it. We had to train our team members to answer queries, and taught them to reach the customers wherever they are, instead of serving them in the showroom. Each of our stores also started making digital catalogues of their products and sending it to customers. It became a semi-e-commerce platform with every individual store making its own website to showcase products. Jewellery could be bought anywhere, everywhere. For the last 4-5 months, sales have been driven mostly by wedding jewellery.

Vision for the company...

Our short-term brand strategy is to be there for our customers in this COVID crisis situation. We have done a lot of community work, along with contributing to the Chief Minister’s fund and the Prime Minister’s fund, etc. Our team members were actually helping senior citizens in their respective cities with shopping and other chores. We also tied up with local corporations and contributed for protective health kits for ground level workers. Our thought is ‘humanity above all’. I believe in the ‘human first’ philosophy. I want to make the brand more relevant to the consumer, along with product innovation. I also want to provide opportunity for the karigars to grow, so as not to lose their hand-crafted and exquisite designs to machine-made and mass manufactured products. In the long term, I have to focus on building the brand, more and more, creating happiness in the lives of the consumer, as jewellery is an auspicious product, bought to mark happy occasions. Indeed, we are in the business of creating happiness and satisfaction.

Always be in panic mode...

After losing my father to COVID-19 in July, I have realized that time is the most precious thing, and I have been spending more time with my family. Losing a parent is a big setback, a loss which is irreparable. Ibelieve that my father is physically not with us, but his energy is around us, guiding us… we just have to make sure that we draw the power from that energy and learn as we move ahead in life. Meanwhile, every day, we must think anew about survival. Always be in panic mode, with no complacency ever. Keep our ears and eyes open. Be always on our toes. Work has to be a passion and an enjoyment, and entail as much perfection as possible. What next? How to be better? How to improve the process of work? These should keep us moving forward.

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