Session number seven of RJIF 2020 was devoted to gleaning learnings from businesses that operate in the upper-end segment, as well as the upper mid-segment, of the jewellery sector. The topic, “Learnings from creating ultra-luxury and affordable luxury brands in the jewellery” was dealt with adroitly by the speaker, Amit Dhamani, CEO, Dhamani 1969.
Talking about the beginning of his company, Dhamani said, “We started our journey as loose gem and diamond Company in Dubai back in the early 1990s.” Gradually as Dubai transformed into a prime retail destination they ventured into retail. “We went against the tide and opened an exclusive diamond and gemstones jewellery shop in 2000- at a time when Dubai was known for gold.”
In 2003, Dhamani approached the government and sought help for building trust with customers who were coming to Dubai from all parts of the world. The government awarded the company with the prestigious “Bareeq Award” for following Good Trade Practices. The company used it to its advantage to create awareness about its brand.
In the year 2006, the company received exclusive rights for the ‘Dubai Cut Diamond’. “We saw a unique opportunity in this development to differentiate ourselves and to showcase unique pieces of our range to our customers,” Dhamani reminisced.
“Later we opened our first mall outlet in Dubai Mall in 2008. It was more like an art gallery than a retail outlet. There were no salespersons manning counters the way they do in jewellery stores. Here, customers could freely move around the store and view the jewellery on exhibit, just like in a gallery.”
Sharing further details, he said that soon he realized that customers who were coming to the outlet from around the world had seen the best of stores; now, they wanted something more. “So, at that time, we wondered that as a brand and business, what we could do differently to attract clients,” Dhamani added.
He added that 2008 to 2014 was a very interesting time for the company. Regional customers already knew the company, the brand was doing well locally, and all its products were certified, but even then, the company was not quite in the league of the big brands of the world. “At that stage, we enrolled for the executive programme in Harvard and tried to understand what we should not do. The most important thing we learnt over there was that if you are not very focused if you do not have a clear understanding of who your clients are, what they are looking for, you will always get carried away by market pressures. It will not help you to position yourself correctly and strategize accordingly,” he said.
In 2014, the company transformed the look of the store and launched a new brand called Dhamani 1969. Every product of Dhamani 1969 was priced above $ 10,000. It was a difficult position to take for the company, but it was based on our insight of the target consumer. Going forward, the company opened an outlet in Oman, and in 2016, it opened one in Burjalala. In 2014, its outlet in Dubai mall won the Best Design Boutique in the World award out of 30,000 global entries.
Even as the company was involved in transformation at the top end of the spectrum, it realized that there was a big chunk of customers which was coming to Dubai to buy affordable luxury jewellery.
That is when it came up with the idea of Dusoul by Dhamani, which connotes Dubai soul, Dhamani soul, Diamond soul. Giving details, Dhamani said, “We structured a new business model meant for millennial clients. Dussoul is an affordable luxury brand where the jewellery items are priced between $ 1000 and$ 10,000. Dussoul is for young girls who want to buy, and then announce it to the world, tweet about it and flood the social media. So, if anyone buys jewellery from Dussoul, the videos (made immediately by us) and images go viral in all our stores. In 2019, Dussoul won the retail concept for Middle East award, and now we are looking forward to the global award which Dhamani 1969 has won.”
Dhamani had more to say. And he said it very clearly. “We are humbly trying to be the best jewellery brand of the world, and it is just the beginning. If you see the history of the big brands, they took 50-100 years to reach where they are. Dhamani 1969 is less than six to seven years old, and we are very humbled that Harvard Business School has done a case study on Dhamani. It has been a learning experience, and in our industry, it is all about how we learn from each other,” he declared.
Talking about straddling two different businesses, he said, “At the management level, we had to divide the work. Whoever managed the Dhamani 1969 business could not even think about affordable luxury.
If you are sitting in the store and you have to say no to a client who asks for a 5% discount, you need lots of focus on your business. You have to do weekly mystery shopping of your competitors, you have to see their pricing, and your designs have to be unique. Every piece of Dhamani 1969 is manufactured in Italy and France. We manufacture all the jewellery the way top manufacturing brands do, because we want to sell to that kind of a clientele. The biggest challenge the brand faces today is to sell itself internally. The salespersons should believe that the brand is truly international in its offering and genuine in its promise,” he said.
Running two brands may look simple but it is a challenge, Dhamani pointed out. “It is a challenge of focus, clarity, and understanding about what we want to achieve. Dhamani 1969 is trying to sell the red diamonds of the world; it is trying to be the brand that people think of when they look to buy ultra-luxury, unique products. And then we have Dussoul, which is in a different league retailing affordable luxury.”
Giving certain pointers for successfully running the two businesses, he said, “We, as a family, will never be in the stores. That was our first idea of going into retail. Right from the beginning, we were clear that we wanted to create a sustainable business. You will not see a Dhamani brother or a family member in the store. All the team members are empowered, they know the cost of the product, they know what our rent is and what kind of daily expenses we have, and how much they should sell to make money.
We, as owners, make only 25% of the decisions. The other 25% are made by the clients, 25% by the team and the rest is experts. We go through a lot of data to understand what we should do, including campaigns, product development and hiring of staff. And work is distributed amongst the family members,” Dhamani told the gathering.
He concluded by giving details about the family, and the roles of the various members. “We are three brothers, Rohit is the CEO of Dussoul, and he has a professional COO in his team. We, as brothers, do not get involved in the business. We only meet as a board for Dussoul for strategic guidance once a month.
Manish is the CEO of Dhamani 1969. My role is to strategize and have a vision for the company as I am the Group CEO.
“We feel we are just the custodians of the brand, and we are trying to build it for the next generation. Everyone can do a matrix role in the company. If tomorrow Rohit is heading Dhamani 1969 or Manish Dussoul, we are all on the same page.” Each one has visibility and up to date information on another’s business.