Stephen Lussier, global CEO of Forevermark, the premium brand from the De Beers group, the world's largest diamond-miner, believes that India, despite its macroeconomic woes, will continue to be the fastest-growing diamond market in the world. Which is why, he tells Nupur Anand, Forevermark is investing in India. Edited excerpts.
The gold-loving Indian consumer's preference for diamonds has strengthened the market. Do you expect this trend to continue?
Yes, India has traditionally been a market for gold jewellery. We have seen that change now. Diamond jewellery is still about 10-15% of the entire jewellery market. Considering that the share is still small, we see a great opportunity for us. That is the reason that we are investing in India. We are building our second Forevermark Diamond Institute at Surat in India. This is where all our diamond selection, inscription and grading will be done. We want to near our customers. The institute is the second one after Antwerp in Belgium. We are looking at investing $7million for the facility. We believe this will further our growth in India.
What's been your experience in India so far? And what's your expectation of the Indian diamond market?
It has not been easy for anyone. However, we have tried to focus on increasing our distribution and marketing reach. We expanded our distribution by nearly 50%. We have grown by 30% in India this year and we expect to grow at the same momentum. In fact, out of our entire distribution, 10% is spread across India and that is also equivalent to the share that India has in the diamond market. India represents about 10% of the overall market as far as the consumption of polished diamonds is concerned. The entire diamond market in India had grown at 18% in 2012 and it would definitely be slower than that in 2013. But we think it is a short-term blip.
How much does the Indian market contribute to your global portfolio?
We don't give a break-up of contributions from different markets. However, to give you an idea, we are in 12 markets, and India is at No.3, better placed than Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia and other markets. India sits with China and the US in this regard. We are very confident about India. We believe that it is going to be better in the second half of this year.
Do you see diamond prices rising?
Diamond prices have been increasing and the prices are hotting up. The prices of polished diamonds had increased in December and January. We've to see how they pan out. We expect them to go up even more. But I guess in the diamond industry no one would want to see more than a moderate increase of 3-5%.