Mumbai: As the Central and state governments have partially lifted the lockdown, under 'Mission Begin Again' in Maharashtra, the jewellery sector is slowly trying to regain its lustre. Kumar Jain, president of the India Bullion and Jewellers Association Ltd, Mumbai, told The Free Press Journal, "Business is at 10 to 15 per cent, as currently, shops can only open on alternate days. Once the lockdown is completely lifted, we are hoping to recoup our losses in the last three months of lockdown."
Jain has a showroom in Zaveri Bazaar, the hub of the jewellery business. He said, "We are now trying to bring back artisans hailing from West Bengal, who left the city during the lockdown. We are providing them with train tickets, telling them to return, saying that by remaining in their hometowns, they will not get any livelihood opportunities. A few have come back and more are expected to return in the coming days."
Similar views are expressed by another jeweller, Shalin Zaveri, 51, owner of Sabine Jewellers at Panchratna Opera House, who said, "My specialisation is customised jewellery design, including bridal jewellery, besides 'Jadau' (gemstones embedded in gold) and diamonds. Even in the lockdown, my regular customers kept calling me and inquiring about jewellery patterns and designs. Since the March, April and May are peak wedding season, the lockdown led to many weddings being postponed. However, many have decided to go ahead with their wedding dates in July and after Diwali. Besides, jewellery has always been an investment option, so people are keen on buying."
Meanwhile, the director of the All India Gems & Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF), Manoj Kumar Jha, advised that though the business is back on track, the government should provide some immediate financial assistance for the industry, considering that this sector is a huge employment generator.
Jha said, "Without any business during the lockdown, the owners had to pay their employees. However, the government should now compensate by providing some relief -- for instance, those who have been regularly paying income tax should be eligible for loans without interest. Providing direct funding and not as loans will benefit businessmen."
He also said that though the business is picking up since the lockdown was eased, customers are mainly those who have marriages planned in their families. "Fifty per cent of customers are wedding customers. Footfall is yet to improve. There are about 15 days left in the wedding season and therefore, the families are buying jewellery. Money saved due to the current limits on wedding gatherings is being utilised to buy jewellery, thus enabling us to witness some business. However, after the wedding season gets over, uncertainty will hover over business, "Jha explained.
Shortage of raw materials is another issue. He explained, "As artisans have gone home, the manufacture of raw material will be hit in the upcoming days. Those with offices at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), the diamond hub, are only allowed to have three visitors to their offices. Before the coronavirus outbreak, there was no limit on the number of brokers who could visit these offices. But with this limited entry, the pace of activities will be slower."
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