Dinesh Navadiya seeks social and business transformation through the diamond industry

Wearing different hats, Dinesh Navadiya has been active in the Surat diamond industry for a long time, as an administrator, one of the drivers of the Surat Diamond Bourse and as a leader of social initiatives. He gives his thoughts on different industry aspects.

Edited excerpts:

The circumstances which created the idea: https://youtu.be/rWTdjR01ev4

In 2015, I took the responsibility of heading the Surat Diamond Association, which I continued till 2021.

As head, my attention was drawn by members to the important fact that the SME segment of our industry is facing big issues in Maharashtra. Be it investment needed in workplace, or for residences, it was a constraint for small businesses.

That was a catalyst of thinking ….. And when manufacturing and trading both are one place it will always be very beneficial, especially for small businesses.

Then when we took out the survey it was so positive that 45,000 people were in favor of relocation. We then put the proposal to big industry leaders. One major turning point was when Vallabhbhai Patel (Lakhani) of Kiran Gems took the lead.

For our Surat Diamond Bourse, we then just had to come down to 5,000 people finalized, because the whole project execution was on no profit no loss basis. We asked for their estimates of space for business, for vehicle parking and so on, with 10 percent of the amount upfront as advance. That enabled us to have some money and take the next step, which was a systematic survey of location options for such a bourse. We set up committees for planning, construction, coordination and other matters. We needed a clear land space of 33 acres, and the Gujarat Government in this aspect has always been positive and supportive. The then Chief Minister, Anandiben Patel, allocated the requisite space to us inside the 2900 acre Dream City project, which we purchased at the cost specified by the Government. There was no question of any grant or subsidy in the land purchase. The big advantage that we had was that, in the location of Surat Dream City, the infrastructure is absolutely beautiful and state of the art, and full credit goes to the Government. The amount generated by sale of land in the Dream City is going totally towards developing the infrastructure there.

This creation of a Bourse has multiple benefits – small companies do not need to invest in two offices, families do not need to stay apart regularly for work purposes and small companies get direct access to buyers.

What we are looking at is consolidation of work on the ground. There are cost benefits, and SMEs are directly in touch with buyers. This is the entire benefit that we were looking for.

The long-term vision: https://youtu.be/04FUEYBY5Hg

As a Chief Minister, Narendra Modi who today is Prime Minister, then had this vision – why can we not have a trade centre here? This project is just the fructification of his vision.

Regarding the increase of facilities and membership of the Surat Diamond Bourse, we are not planning anything of that sort. Internal sales or transfers may happen, but expansion programmes beyond the current 4,500 members are not on the horizon at all. The project was planned and completed on no-profit basis. It is not a commercial project.

Can Bharat Diamond Bourse and Surat diamond Bourse collaborate or compete? The answer is that, when a new one starts, the old one does not decline. South Africa continues to prosper, so does Israel, so does Netherlands. If I give a simple example – Dubai came after Belgium. From a $12 billion dollar trade, today the amount is $ 45 billion. All will grow and all will prosper.

The bullishness around lab-grown diamonds: https://youtu.be/DyfvTOD7GMc

Why is anyone in India bullish on lab-grown diamonds – the answer is very simple. It is simply a tremendous growth opportunity. From generation of raw material, to cutting and polishing of the jewellery, all the processes are serving the vision of Make in India. The entire ecosystem will look favorably towards uneducated but avid skill learners. From that context, this industry is a Godsend for India.

If you just look at skilled employment for 5,000 people as a government initiative, the government would have to make 25-30 thousand crore investment. Here, this investment is dispensed with.

When you look at the scope of lab-grown diamonds, it is a labour oriented industry and therefore more relevant for India. The traditional model is dependent on import of raw materials, and is also dependent on other nations for sales. De Beers is the major supplier from where rough diamonds are traditionally imported.

Now against that, you look at lab-grown diamonds. The raw material is locally generated. There is straight enhancement in employment. The government benefits because of taxation revenue arising from greater activity. There is also benefit from lower usage of forex in revenue transactions on regular basis. Our experience in traditional diamonds with stand us in very good stead here.

With all these perspectives in mind, there is a committee form on how to increase production of CVD in India. I am also part of this committee. For us, electricity is a major cost, and therefore total duty exemption of 10 percent on electricity is what we would want to aim for. Demand for lab-grown diamonds is steadily rising in the USA, and it is a businessman’s job to supply what the market wants.

Skill development and the gems industry: https://youtu.be/UIAxhN36uAY

Skill development has been a project very close to the heart of Narendra Modi, our Prime Minister. From his extensive international travel, he has imbibed this idea. India has skills, that is not to be doubted – it is just that they have to be refined through training, and made money worthy. You look at the National Skill Development Corporation –  its purposes, its processes, where I have also been associated for six years. The examination and certification from the side of the government is a very good step. Even the expense for the training is borne by the government.

The Indian Diamond Institute, where I am the chairman, is active in this. Current capacity is 350 students annually, with degree and diploma courses across tenures of one, two or three years. Jewellery design courses today are seeing a good demand, and we have students from other countries aswell. Jewellery manufacturing is a new emerging area which will employ people. The Jewellery Manufacturing Association in the city has membership strength of 150. In Surat across three years, nearly 350 factories have come up.

Social development and the industry: https://youtu.be/VteoYqivrHI

In the Indian context, there is hardly any industry as active in community service as the diamond industry.

On the social development side, industry has been active both in the medical and the education arenas. You are aware that the multi speciality Kiran Hospital has been developed from within our community. We handle 1,000 plus patients daily. Our charges are nominal – Rs.1800 for a normal delivery, and Rs.5,000 for a Caesarean delivery. And in case it is a girl child born, even these are waived and a bond of Rs.1 lakh is  given. Where incubator services are needed, with the help of Prime Minister driven scheme, there is no charge for first thirty days, whereas the daily cost otherwise comes to Rs.15,000. Cataract treatment is free so is dialysis so brain surgery.

For an average worker with Rs.25,000 salary, a birth of a child is a happy occasion but also an expensive occasion. That fear of expense has now been dissipated.

Similarly in education, there are 32000 students being educated through our Trust in Surat, 22,000 students in Bhavnagar and I myself am in charge of another Trust where 38000 students are being educated at different locations. Felicitation of bright students is done annually. We don’t have labour issues, what is normally the responsibility of  labour unions is done by the industry. Be it girl education, water conservation – we are active in diverse areas. The Surat diamond industry, as a whole, is responsible for lots of social initiatives.

A word on my association with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. We used to study in Ahmedabad, and used to suffer riots there regularly for years and years. The need for someone to speak on behalf of the Hindu community, the religion their traditions – all was acutely felt. The only one I could identify with was the VHP, therefore I associated myself with it in 1984.

There are problems specific to our religion and our community like say love jihad which need to be highlighted. Abolition of Article 370, the Ram temple in Ayodhya – there was a need to get people united on these issues. That function was performed by the VHP. Today I am proud to be the National Treasurer of such an organisation


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