NEW DELHI, September 14
Platinum Guild International, the world organisation of platinum traders, which will introduce exclusive platinum jewellery in the country, intends to shift 1 to 2 per cent of the Indian gold market for the white metal.
To persuade the Indian woman that the understated elegance of the dull white metal is superior to the glitter of gold, the Guild will go in for some hard line selling promotions, a "Platinum Woman of the Year", exclusive franchises, an aggressive advertising campaign by Chanda Dhar Hoon. The aim will be to create brand as well as concept awareness.
The Guild is a past master at the game. Aggressive marketing by the Guild saw a double-digit growth demand for platinum jewellery in the United States and China. Currently, Japan is the largest market for platinum jewellery with a share of 47 per cent. China is the second largest market with 32 per cent, and the USA the third largest with 13 per cent. Total platinum usage in jewellery is around 90 tonne, a very small percentage of the tonnage of gold used in jewellery.
China, which had little awareness of the concept is now the world's biggest importer of Italian designed platinum chains and in North America, the demand for platinum jewellery rose from under 20,000 ounces reported in 1990 to an estimated 140,000 in 1997, along with a 56 per cent rise over the previous year. Both the countries saw aggressive marketing of the noble metal by the Platinum Guild.
However can the Indian woman be convinced to make the switch?
Traditionally gold has not only been mere jewellery, but also as a nest egg for bad times. The practice is universal, with even the leading European Central Banks maintaining 30 per cent of their assets in terms of gold, but in India it is almost timeless.
Alternative jewellery, like platinum, is most likely to attract the upper end consumer to whom jewellery is more of a fashion statement. Says a member of the marketing team at Tanishq, India's largest retail jewellery chain, which will be marketing platinum jewellery, provided by the Guild, "Traditional consumers will prefer gold to platinum. Gold shows its value, platinum has more of a perceived value. Platinum jewellery would be preferred by women who want to make an identity statement."
However, say jewellers, all this may not go down with the traditional consumer, primarily because, unlike gold, platinum, at present, does not command much of a resale value. Most of India's gold is hoarded, the ultimate check against poverty. In fact, say jewellers, many customers prefer 18 carat gold with a coat of platinum to pure platinum. This enables them to wear "platinum" even as they keep gold.
One way of marketing platinum would be to sell combination jewellery until the concept takes off. This is what the Guild seems to planning. Most of the jewellery featured in the PGI collection is studded with diamonds. Diamond jewellery demand has been growing significantly and the marketing strategy will focus on selling combination jewellery first to capture a market for pure platinum later.
Says Sachin Melhotra, partner, M. Rajsons, a Delhi-based jewellery firm, "Platinum will attract the consumer who prefers branded jewellery. It will be among them that the concept is popular." Branded high-carat jewellery in modern designs is growing in popularity, particularly in urban areas and worldwide there has been an increase in the use of platinum jewellery.
As India's retail jewellery market grows, and there is an increasing demand for unique designs from the discerning consumer, platinum jewellery may become more and more popular. The experience of other markets, such as the United States, is also encouraging. There, the introduction of platinum jewellery attracted more customers.
There could also be an increase in supply. South African producers have announced expansion plans that will increase the current South African supply by nearly 50 per cent by 2006.
However, a lot of it will have to do with marketing. If the concept is marketed right, then platinum — which the ancient Egyptians discovered more than 3000 years ago and France's Louis XVI proclaimed the only metal fit for royalty — may grace the figures of Indian women as well.
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