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Collaboration, compliance and tech emerge as key talk points at 4th Retail Jeweller Dubai Forum



Leading players emphasise on the importance of GCC market as the future for the gems and jewellery industry

The 4th edition of The Retail Jeweller Dubai Forum held at The Hyatt Regency, Deira, Dubai, last week brought together leading jewellers of the Middle East and beyond for a day of intense knowledge-sharing and debate on future trends. The accent was on technology coming into the business and the need for collaboration between players, underlined by compliance with safety and regulatory norms in the UAE, which has made the business robust.

Technology-focused companies showcased the latest advancements in tech for the gems and jewellery industry, providing attendees with a valuable opportunity to explore cutting-edge solutions that can help drive their businesses forward. Design and innovation were also at the centre of conversations, along with a future-forward look at the industry.

In his inaugural address, Tawhid Abdullah, Chairman, Dubai Jewellery Group, gave a clarion call for collaboration among players in the gems and jewellery industry in the UAE, that will redefine the future of the business. He pointed out factors like extending the Gold Souk and amendment of the Value Added Tax (VAT) Law in the UAE, along with other help from the Government and Customs authorities, that have made business easier in Dubai, the City of Gold. “We are going through a big transformation. In the past, we have unintentionally neglected the importance of compliance, but now it is a priority,” he observed.

The first Spark Session at the forum, presented by Vivek Das and Sanjib Chatterjee of Unlearn Innovation, dwelt on ‘Smart Ways Jewellers Can Aid Consumers’ Product Search, Powered by AI’. They decoded their digital offering ‘Trouve’, which enables consumers to search for any product anywhere visually. They emphasised its application in preventing broken consumer journeys, turning them into conversions and maximising wallet share. “Typing is the past. Visual is the future,” Das said, while Chatterjee added that Trouve is open to integrating all kinds of software. 

Next to take on the stage was Vaishali Banerjee, MD, India of the Platinum Guild International (PGI), who spoke on ‘The Platinum Opportunity for the Middle East’, and creating the platinum edge for the GCC by identifying opportunities in the region. “The world’s best diamonds are set in platinum,” Banerjee said, emphasising that platinum stands for love that withstands the test of time. She also spoke of the PT-950 mark, that has come in as a benchmark for quality and preciousness of platinum, as well as building a new incremental business opportunity with the ‘Men of Platinum’ collection for men.

A vivid display of vibrant colours – emeralds, rubies and sapphires – splashed across the LED panels on stage as Yogita Vichare, Director, Corporate Strategy at FURA Gems Inc., spoke of ‘The Big Colour Gemstone Jewellery Opportunity’ and the journey of FURA in mining coloured gemstones so far, intending to create the world’s largest sapphire mine by 2023. “We are a UAE-based and GCC-based mining company. Till date, we have done nine international auctions and brought a sizeable amount of products to the market. We are giving the market a strong push for specific product categories and creating specific gems collaborations and programmes. Our first B2B campaign will be launched here soon,” she said.

Invited to the stage to say a few words following Vichare’s presentation, Dev Shetty, Founder and CEO at FURA Gems Inc., said, “I’m happy with what we have achieved. But the most important thing is what lies in the future. The GCC market is the future for our industry. Green is always adored in this part of the world.”

Muneeb Cholayil, Sales Manager, Suntech Business Solutions, presented the final Spark Session at the forum, describing how the company started small at Dubai Gold Souk and has gone on to gain customers from 35+ countries now. “There are three aspects that we would like to envision in terms of digitally transforming the gems and jewellery sector – what are the challenges, what are the factors influencing the present, and what lies ahead in future,” he said. “Signum, our strong analytics platform, allows us to look at data without any prejudice and with an AI-based approach.”

Post lunch, the forum livened up with several sharp panel discussions that dealt with the new opportunity presented by lab-grown diamonds, winning strategies to grow the coloured gemstones business exponentially, and how applying jewel-tech to existing processes can accelerate business growth. Moderating the panel on lab grown diamonds, Chirag Soni, Co-Founder & Director, SGL Labs, put forward a concise picture of the industry and its prospects, encompassing the panelists’ views, emphasising that as technology improves, the cost of lab-grown diamonds will fall, and this is an opportunity for the retailer who is grappling with rising inventory costs. Besides, the panel highlighted how mined diamond production will steadily drop, making lab-grown a viable option to grow the category.   

The panel that drew the most eyeballs and appreciation from the audience was the all-women crew of jewellery designers and content creators – moderator Tamara Al Shamari (Taiia Jewelry), Vinita Michael (Vinita Michael LLC), Khadija Ahmed Alsalami (Harf and Nakhas), Toktam Shekarriz (TOKTAM Conceptual Art Jewelry), Maha Al Sibai (Maha Al Sibai Jewellery), Samah Wahbe (The Jewelry Tales) and Tania Heikal Tayara (Glowy Not Showy) ­– who held forth on design innovation and development for millennials, along with influencer and social media marketing from a design perspective. Creating a design jewellery group and taking the help of these talented designers to make the design language more relevant to the youth were some of the discussion points.

The last panel at the forum had industry stalwarts decipher ‘Riding the Next Growth Wave’ and ways to navigate the future growth of the industry. Amit Dhamani, Group CEO of Dhamani, pointed out how Dubai is a land of opportunities for even new retailers who may decide to start their journey today.

Rounding up the day’s knowledge sessions, Mark Curtis, Head of Leasing at Ithra Dubai, spoke of the Dubai Gold Souk extension and how it had been built on the lines of utility and partnership. He presented a short film showing the evolution of the century-old Gold Souk into its modern avatar. “At today’s forum, we heard of the challenges and solutions for retailers, but as landlords, some of our challenges are different to theirs,” he said, telling the audience a story of how at one time, he took a step back and went around talking to everyone he met at the Gold Souk in an attempt to understand the industry and to find solutions.

The presenting partners for the forum were Platinum Guild International, ITHRA Dubai and FURA Gems, while the Associate Partners were Dubai City of Gold, Suntech Business Solutions, SGL, and Unlearn powered by AWS.

The forum also featured a Retail Solutions Providers Exhibition and Pret-a-Couture Exhibition and the 4th Retail Jeweller Middle East Awards, which recognised top-notch jewellers for excellence in diverse realms of retail in a well-attended awards ceremony in the evening.