A tradition of Excellence : T.S. Kalyanaraman
Kalyan Jewellers is one of the largest jewellery chains in India. It is headquartered in Thrissur in Kerala. Kalyan Group is the holding company of Kalyan Jewellers. It employs around 4,000 people all over India. Their first jewellery shop was started in Thrissur with the capital of Rs 75 lakh. Later Kalyan Jewellers expanded to 36 showrooms all over India. Bloomberg has valued Kalyan Jewellers at about $1 billion in January, 2013. Amitabh Bachan, Dileep, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Nagarjuna Akkineni, Prabhu Ganesan and Shivaraj Kumar are the brand ambassadors of the Kalyan Jewellers. Earlier Miss Universe 1994 Sushmita Sen was the ambassador.
T S Kalyanaraman heads Kalyan Jewellers. The vision he shares is to do business with the primary objective of common social good through fair and ethical business practices. He also wants to give the customer much more than what he wants and asks for in jewellery retailing in all the key areas of quality, value for money, transparency and customer service through innovative means and tools which in turn will make Kalyan Jewellers the most trusted jeweller. In a talk with Bejoy George T S
Kalyanaraman speaks about his group and gold retailing industry in general.
The beginning of Kalyan Jewellers?
Kalyan Jewellers has its origins in Kalyan Textiles, a century old firm in Thrissur, engaged in textile retailing. Kalyan Jewellers are presently engaged in retailing of jewellery in gold, silver, platinum, diamond and pearls. The company was founded in 1993 and is based in, Thrissur, Kerala.
Mr. T. S. Kalyanaraman is the Chairman and Managing Director of Kalyan Jewellers. His journey as a businessman started at the age of 12 when he was taken to his family owned textile shop to learn the basics from his father. After managing Kalyan Textiles,
he set up Kalyan Jewellers on his own in 1993 with an investment of Rs 75 lakh and in a span of less than two decades the company has grown to be India’s largest and most trusted jewellery retail company.
The ancestors of the present management of Kalyan Jewellers come from a pious family of saints and priests, called ‘Trikkur Madom’ in Thrissur district of Kerala. They migrated from Tamil Nadu generations back and lived as saints and advisors to kings.
The family entered in business for a noble cause inspired by a senior relative who was a Dewan to the Maharaja of Kochi, Raja Bahadur Ramachandra Iyer. In those days of pre-independence India, the Dewan encouraged Indians to start business and enterprise to create employment and also to become self-sufficient as a country. He realized the social impact of business and therefore had stressed the need to do it in a fair and honest manner.
It was this inspiration for nation building and social commitment that led to the forefathers of the Kalyan family to enter business through one of the first textile mills in Kerala. Subsequently they entered into textile retailing and the present Managing Director Mr. T. S. Kalyanaraman still owns the textile store he inherited called Kalyan Textiles.
T S Kalyanaraman got inducted into business by his father when he was a school going boy of 12. His father would encourage him to watch the business at the textile shop, after he was finished with his lessons and games. He would be assigned small tasks like counting cash and taking stock – which he enjoyed very much. Thus, he learnt the basics very early in life. Over a period of time, the textile business flourished. At some point, customers suggested that they needed a trusted jeweller and that is how this business was born, in 1993.
What are the values that drive your company forward?
The company’s ancestors came from pious background of priests, saints and advisers
I stand by the principle of Honesty, fair play, trustworthiness. The first step we took was to only sell BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) hallmarked jewellery. Kalyan has been at the forefront of pioneering efforts to educate the public of cheating and malpractice in gold quality and pricing through their campaign ‘Fight against Impure Gold”.
The company spent a huge amount of money and installed state-of-the-art carat meters to test the purity of any customer’s gold jewellery, wherever it may be purchased from, so that they knew who were the honest jewelers and who were not.
To make the BIS concept work, it had to be affordable. BIS hallmarking had a cost attached to it as hallmarking charges, it meant more inventory cost which also increased price of the jewellery. The company realized that it had to absorb a major portion of this to get the customer to buy BIS. It also meant sacrificing whatever margins we made in an era of increasing overhead costs. If the volumes didn’t increase to expected levels, the company’s business would be adversely impacted. But Kalyan Jewellers trusted the good sense of the customer and made the hard decision to slash Value Addition (Making charges + wastage), we tightened our purchase policy and passed on margins in bullion trading to the customer. It could have backfired and killed the company but we did it against conventional wisdom, on the belief that if the customer benefited, they would gain. The company never had to look back after that.
Kalyan Jewellers decided to reward their loyal customers. Not the ones who would just form a temporary relationship due to our schemes and gifts. And this was the principle behind the first ever comprehensive loyalty programme in jewellery retailing – the Kalyan Gold Card.
Kalyan Jewellers was the first company to put rate tags on its products. Every product we sold had its price marked on it. The real price itself. That we could not change and neither could our salesmen. We went to the extent of publishing the average price, of basic categories of ornaments so that the customer would know the average costs and compare the same with the higher prices of competitors.
We incurred the wrath of our own trade body as they felt Kalyan was ruining the trade. At Kalyan Jewellers we believed that nothing that benefits the customer would ever ruin the trade.
How do you adapt your company with the changing requirements of the new generation?
I always believe that we should aim at understanding the customer more than he understands himself and aim at giving him what he needs even before he realizes it and asks for it. Because if he is already asking for it, someone else is already giving it to him and that someone else is the one who is going to benefit as he thought of it first. Hence we need to stay ahead of not just competition but also of the customer and time itself. This is the Kalyan philosophy. So according to me we should be the trend setters and should exceed the expectation always and if you see our latest commercial with Mr. Bachchan and Dileep, it is this philosophy which has been portrayed.
The advertisement featuring Amitabh Bachan and other popular actors appealed to the hearts of millions of Consumers in India. What is your marketing and advertising strategy for Kalyan Jewellers?
At kalyan we bel eve in trust and transparency for which we use the male brand ambassadors and for product related campaigns Mrs. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is being used.
How many retail stores are you planning to open for FY2013-14?
We are planing to launch 16 showrooms in India and 6 in UAE this year.
Which all cities you are planning to open stores in the next one year
We will be launching showrooms in delhi, Punjab, UP, Rajasthan and gulf.
Are there any plans for diversification into other business verticals, other than retailing?
We have already diversified to real estate development in the name and style, Kalyan Developers and we are also planning to step in to the field of 7 star schooling and also have plans to enter the entertainment sector through a chain of multiplexes.
Gold prices took a hit recently. Is Gold gradually losing its luster? How do you see the dip in gold prices?
It is only a correction which was really necessary and I don’t think gold has lost it s luster. The showrooms were over crowded when the gold price is came down by just 10% which it self is an answer for your question.
Where are the gold prices headed to?
The gold will come back to 2900 range before the next financial year end.
What is your outlook of the jewelry industry?
The jewellery industries is moving to the organized sector because believe in big brands and big chains rather than an unorganized jeweller.
What is your opinion of Kerala, when it comes to doing business? Are we now becoming more business friendly?
Kerala is always been friendly for us because we are there in the business field for the past 100 years.
About your family?
I have two sons, Rajesh Kalyanaraman who heads the inventory and finance team and Ramesh Kalyanaraman heads the marketing and operations. My daughter Radhika is a house wife and my son in law Karthik R is the MD of Kalyan Developers. My wife Ramadevi is house wife. Also are my daughters in laws Maya Rajesh and Deepa Ramesh. I have 2 grand sons and 3 grand daughters.