Bakul Limbasiya focusses on becoming the largest enabler for lab grown diamonds in India

While it is unanimously agreed that the potential of lab grown diamonds is enormous and will generate forex revenues, the one question asked often is about the forex outflow related to capital investment in the process. Bhathwari Technologies, based in Surat, aims to provide an answer to this by having developed indigenous machinery for manufacture of lab-grown diamonds.

The company promoter Bakul Limbasiya, is a technocrat and has been an inventor and innovator from a very early age. He is, in a sense, among the pioneers creators of the lab-grown diamond industry’s future in India. His plans include integration backwards into supply management of other inputs (like the gases currently imported) for the production of lab-grown diamonds. He talks about his capabilities, current position and the future of the industry in a chat.

 Edited excerpts:

The start of the journey:

Since 1993 I was involved in processing, and we used diamond powder imported from Russia and China. Occasionally, we would get slightly large-sized particles in that powder. Looking at those particles give us an idea – had they been even slightly larger, they could have qualified as diamonds. That thought inspired me to follow up – how can I make such a particle large enough. That was the core thought that we had in 1995 – about creating an artificial diamond.

I have throughout been involved in research and development of different types, and since 2002 I initiated work in this area, and we also simultaneously started work on creation of our own machinery, which would generate lab-grown diamonds. Since then, I was clear that lab-grown diamonds had not only technical but also massive commercial potential.

In 2004 we were able to generate the first lab-grown diamond, which in terms of cost was then very expensive. Getting the lab development to a commercial level and bringing down the cost took us to 2008. By 2010 we got the factory started and had the first production and sale.

Today’s position:

Since then we are in the business of supplying machines for factories which want to get into lab-grown diamonds. It has been a 20-year journey in becoming an enabler for the creation of a lab-grown diamonds industry in Surat.

Today, as machinery suppliers, we also undertake responsibility for the output as well, a production guarantee. We are in a position where we cater to limited clients (six right now), and just keeping up with extra demand from their growth requirements will ensure growth for us, without seeking new clients.

In Surat, we are estimating that by end of this year, we will have 1700-1800 machine installations, where we will then increase their production efficiency. Across the 6 companies today we have five to six thousand employees which we have trained.

On the export front, we are just making a beginning. We would aim to export 500 machines to Dubai by April 2023.

Current market situation:

As I said when we install machines, we also train employees in operations. A few years back we won a patent case in USA which Washington Diamonds had filed against us. The case went on a year and went in our favour, the court in fact had recommended that we should sue them, but we are not interested. Were we to take them to court, we are likely to win, because the court has told us that we have been wrongly sued by them.

Today, in a nutshell, our clients are growing their businesses steadily while training and production efficiency are managed by us. They are seeing growth in volumes, there is rising employment there and there is enough work for us. Overall, a good scenario. For the training programme, the focus is on different stages of growing the diamonds and slightly beyond. For cutting and polishing we don’t really need to train people.

Product market and potential:

The current demand ranges mainly for diamond sizes of 1 to 3 carats. Our clients manage delivery of up to 10 carat polished diamonds. The size as such is not a constraint, just that the demand has to be worth the extra technical efforts to grow the larger sizes.

The future for this field is very bright, and worldwide research and development is on for more and more uses of this product. We all know that is no better heat conductor than this material, therefore the potential in that area itself is immense. People are currently using alumina, silica to make chips and this can be a very good alternative. If that is so, a great demand will open up in the semiconductor field.

The potential benefits for India:

If you look at the current lab-grown diamonds market in India, fitting into the Make in India plan and growth for Surat are obvious benefits. Beyond that, you must understand that the entire currency of the export comes back to India because we will now be creating the raw material here. Today, 98% of our current output is exported. The forex inflow is total earnings, whereas in natural diamonds, the earnings are based on processing of imported material.

We do have a marketplace in Mumbai (Bharat Diamond Bourse) and another coming up in Surat is definitely a positive point for the industry and for lab-grown diamonds. It is important to focus on local transport and logistics issues – once these are resolved, our growth will only speed up. These kind of initiatives will help boost our growth.

Wish list for future growth:

From the government side we do not think that much is needed, other than perhaps a capital subsidy for projects, which will encourage capacities to come up. Another possible area is process and scheme assistance in exports (like textiles), which China provides to its lab-grown diamonds industry.

More thoughts from Bakul Limbasiya:

The key fear I personally have now is that manpower growth for cutting and polishing diamonds may not keep up with the demand.

One key parameter for growth in this industry is consistent upgrade via research and development. Bhathwari Technologies in this regard is unique, because our entire technology has been developed in-house from day one. Whatever upgrades we do for our machinery are supplied on tap, to all our existing clients, without any kind of differentiation or discrimination between them.


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