Surat Diamond Bourse's Uncertain Future As Chairman Vallabh Lakhani Steps Down

Surat Diamond Bourse's Uncertain Future As Chairman Vallabh Lakhani Steps Down

Lakhani's departure has raised serious concerns regarding the future prospects of the mammoth Rs 3,500 crore worth diamond exchange situated in Surat

Melvyn ThomasUpdated: Thursday, March 21, 2024, 02:17 PM IST
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Surat: Vallabh Lakhani, the esteemed chairman of Kiran Gems, has recently made waves in the diamond trade industry by stepping down from his role as chairman of the Surat Diamond Bourse (SDB), the world's largest office building dedicated to the diamond trade. Lakhani's departure has raised serious concerns regarding the future prospects of the mammoth Rs 3,500 crore worth diamond exchange situated in Surat.

Sources closely associated with the development revealed that Vallabhbhai Lakhani, who pioneered operations at the bourse, has decided to return to the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) in Mumbai. His decision stems from the notable absence of other companies at the Surat Diamond Bourse, a critical factor prompting his move back to Mumbai. This significant decision by Lakhani underscores a glaring oversight in the planning and execution of the Surat Diamond Bourse project.

Surat Diamond Bourse honoured as the world's largest office building

This development comes as a shock, especially after the high-profile inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2023, and raises questions about the future of the ambitious project that was expected to redefine India's position in the global diamond trade. July 2023 marked a moment of national pride for India when Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to a CNN report, lauding the Surat Diamond Bourse as the world's largest office building, surpassing even the Pentagon in the United States. Constructed with an investment of Rs 3,500 crore, the building boasted over 4,200 diamond offices, a massive customs clearance house, and space for the world's renowned jewellery brands, among other amenities. Its inauguration by Modi on December 17 was a spectacle of hope and triumph. Lakhani's move has had a domino effect, dissuading many medium-sized diamond trading companies from establishing their presence at the Surat Diamond Bourse. Consequently, numerous diamond company owners who had commenced interior works at their offices within the SDB have chosen to halt their progress following Lakhani's decision.

Impact of resignation

The resignation of Vallabh Lakhani has not only shaken the confidence of small-time companies intending to set up offices at the Surat Diamond Bourse but has also reverberated across the global diamond industry. Sources within the Mumbai diamond trade circles disclosed that Lakhani's decision seemed hasty and was accompanied by pressure on Mumbai-based diamond companies to relocate their trading operations to the Surat Diamond Bourse. Additionally, Lakhani's attempts to entice traders and diamond merchants from Mumbai with discounts ranging from 1.5% to 3% for purchases made at Kiran Gems' office within the SDB have stirred controversy.

The Surat Diamond Bourse's struggle to attract occupants and its subsequent descent into what can be described as a 'ghost building' underscores a broader issue of project planning within the diamond trade industry. While ambition and scale are vital drivers of progress, the success of such mega-projects hinges on a profound understanding of the industry's ecosystem and the needs of its smallest participants. The contrasting fortunes of the thriving Bharat Diamond Bourse in Mumbai and the floundering Surat Diamond Bourse serve as a compelling case study highlighting the imperative of inclusive planning and community engagement in the trade industry.

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