Trading on goodwill

Updated: Jun 26 2005, 05:30am hrs
Joy Alukkas simple elegance, ready wit and easy ways belie the fact that he runs a Rs 1,000 crore gold and diamond jewellery business across India and the Middle East. This unassuming proprietor of the 39-outlet Joy Alukkas gold jewellery group, has outlets in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Kerala. He now plans to draw on his international expertise to extend his empire across India to offer a truly international experience to consumers here.

Joy Alukkas started by trading on the goodwill that his family brand had among the large Malayali community in the Middle East. Today however, he is bringing back his global expertise and wide array of international jewellery back to India from the Middle East. We have 18 collections of jewellery including an Italian, Singapore, Turkish and Arabic section, he says. This is in addition to the jewellery from Kerala, Kolkata, Jaipur and Tamil Nadu that is retailed at the Joy Alukkas jewellery stores.

Turkish jewellery has been very popular in our outlets in Kerala, observes Allukas. Alukkas was in India recently to finalise the opening of his first outlet in the Delhi NCR region at the Gold Souk in Gurgaon. His 3,950 sq ft space in the main atrium on the ground floor is expected to be the major anchor store in the theme mall. Within two years, we will have six outlets in Delhi, he says confidently.

For him this makes good business sense because it lowers the cost of bringing a large range and volume of jewellery from around the world to the city. In 1987, Joy Alukkas, one of five brothers and 10 sisters, decided to take his familys jewellery business beyond the confines of Indian markets.

The Alukkas tryst with gold began in 1952 when Alukka J Verghese started a modest 200 sq ft outlet in Thrissur in Kerala. Father and sons worked on the brand and today Alukkas is the first brand in the Middle East to secure the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. However, while his four brothers concentrated on the Indian business and took it up to Rs 500 crore, Joy Alukkas chose not to rest on the family laurels and grew the familys business abroad. His brothers today own 23 outlets. However, Joy Alukkas has grown his business to 39 stores which retail an average of 50 kg of gold everyday.

I believe gold retailing should offer something for everyone, says Alukkas. He believes his success lies in treating jewellery as a small margins, large volumes business. However, he is a stickler for quality and only retails 916 hallmarked, 22 carat gold jewellery. Because of this insitence on standards, we are able to offer customers a buy-back guarantee where the consumer loses just 10% on exchange.

Joy Alukkas believes that the Indian jewellery shopper is very different from others. The world buys jewellery as a fashion statement. For the Indian buyer it is primarily an investment and then a fashion statement. After all, gold prices have risen from $255 ounce to $425 per ounce and the buyer loses only 3-5% on encashing the the yellow metal.

To further entice this already converted consumer and to keep the gold buying experience at a high all year round and not only during festivals and weddings, Alukkas believes that gold retailers should build excitement into the business throughout the year. Currently, the Kerala outlets are offering a ticket to Malaysia on certain purchases. Similarly, for those buying certain quantities for weddings, a honeymoon comes free of cost.

Having introduced composite wedding shopping in some stores in Kerala, Alukkas next experiment is with the Alukkas shopping festival where he is promoting carnivals and entertainment bowling among other things as part of the jewellery and wedding shopping experience. Visit jewellery showrooms in Kerala, they are full year round, says this quiet innovative jeweller who employees say has a heart of gold.