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Published on: June 1, 2021, 6:04 a.m.
How CaratLane became jeweller to the world
  • CaratLane offers in-video home live demonstrations, with real-time calls, as well as actual home visits to give customers the touch-and-feel experience

By Sekhar Seshan. Consulting Editor, Business India

For generations, Mithun Sacheti points out, Indian families have talked of buying jewellery as an investment. Now, however, the younger generation has started questioning how it can be called that if they can’t monetise it. Enter Adorn, CaratLane’s scheme for ‘enjoyers versus buyers’ as he describes it, which allows people to hire jewellery which the owner is not using.

“There are three kinds of jewellery,” Sacheti explains. “One is sentimental, which has been handed down in the family; then there are everyday items like rings, bangles and chains; and finally, there are items that are kept in a locker because they are never worn for whatever reason. We take these and give them on rent to people who have money but do not want to buy jewellery.” 

CaratLane, which attracted the interest of Tata group company Tanishq when it grew from a single shop to 13 stores and a Rs140-crore turnover in its first five years from 2011 to 2016, has since grown to ₹1,300 crore, with a 50-per-cent CAGR. This was at a time when jewellery as a category was not growing very much, he points out - and without any further fund-raising after the Tatas’ initial investment of Rs99 crore to help him build the business.

The Adorn scheme now has 200 customers, who get a 4-per-cent return on the jewellery he has taken from them, valued and fully secured. More are coming and he aims to be able to offer them a rate that’s on a par with the interest on a fixed deposit. “We are now tying up with 24-hour locker providers for a digitised, fully transparent operation,” he says. 

Three months ago, Sacheti also realised that there was a different audience for silver jewellery, especially among the younger crowd. He launched another scheme to tap this market: Shaya by CaratLane, which has grown by a hefty 135 per cent last year alone.

Treading the untrodden path

He does other things differently, too. While jewellers tend to open their own stores on the same street, or at least in the same area, as others that have already established their presence, he prefers to tread the untrodden path. Using postal pin codes, CaratLane pinpoints a target audience and sends digital advertisements to those potential customers. It then opens a small shop in the area, so that people get a neighbourhood jewellery store. “For instance, those who live at Powai in Mumbai used to go to Andheri to buy jewellery. We opened an outlet right there, to give them what they need within walking distance of their homes!” he says. “Ours is the only one in Powai.” As an extension of this, CaratLane also offers in-video home live demonstrations, with real-time calls, as well as actual home visits to give customers the touch-and-feel experience.

Spreading his wings, Sacheti has launched his cross-border operation, entering the US virtually in the middle of 2020, to take advantage of the fact that two out of every five items of jewellery sold in that country are made in India. Since then, he says, he has notched up sales of Rs6 crore a month in the US market, where he sees a $100-million market opportunity in the next three years.

This operation, which they have named Project Bose after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, was the brainchild of Sacheti’s co-founder Avnish Anand. “We are all nationalistic,” Anand adds. “Netaji was a role model, who wanted to spread India’s name even in developed countries like Japan.”

“This project is obviously important to CaratLane from a business point of view,” Sacheti says. “Avnish and I have spoken and dreamt about it forever – almost from the time the India business started. For a jewellery e-commerce player, operating in the US is akin to being the local league player, who wants to prove himself in the major leagues. But there is an even greater motive – something which germinated as a slight tug at my heart a few years ago and has now grown into a raging fire: a desire to contribute to the restoration of India’s glorious past and pay my respects to India’s greatest hero.”

Describing the inroads into a foreign land as ‘imperialism in reverse’, he says: “I hope that as proud Indians who have decided to stay in India, this will motivate you as well and give you a sense of purpose. In Netaji’s words: ‘give me your blood’ – metaphorically, I want only your crazy commitment -- and I will give you a reason to truly feel proud.”

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