SB: Has the reputation of Surat’s diamond industry tarnished after the incident of synthetic diamond being found in the package of natural diamonds in Mumbai?
Dinesh: You must understand that it is only a small part of the industry which indulged in this. Only the individual reputation of those who practise dishonesty was hampered. The industry reputation is intact and that is because of the larger persona Surat diamond industry has built for itself, of being a quality and reliable supplier of services to the global industry.
SB: What has the association done to stem the practise of adulteration?
Dinesh: We have done a few seminars to increase awareness amongs the different stakeholders of the industry in Surat. In this regard when the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council will release its empirical data report on the industry in February, it would become helpful to better control the situation. Also, Debeers has given to Mumbai-based companies inspection machines on a trial basis. Once this product becomes ready, it will help the industry with the issue of adulteration.
SB: What new development in manufacturing has come up in the sector?
Dinesh: Tribal areas are seeing an influx in diamond manufacturing units. These units are owned by businessmen of Surat. The idea behind setting up units in the tribal belt of Gujarat is to tap into the labour market there. Individuals from these regions coming to work in Surat found it hard to adjust to the city conditions. Also, these units employ a lot of women workers. The quality of work coming out of here is of the highest standard.
SB: What is the current market sentiment?
Dinesh: Positive market trend prevails as of now. The holiday season is doing well and we look to the new cycle of business in January with optimism.
SB: What needs does the industry have to boost business?
Dinesh: We need a fully operational airport to expand trade. Currently, the Surat airport runs two domestic commercial flights every day. This number needs to go up so that our clients can visit us at ease from across the world and our traders can conduct their business faster.
Technologically Surat city’s diamond industry is advanced. Machines are coming in from Israel, Belgium, Germany and the domestic market. But, there are no subsidies on imports on this machinery. The State government has a program for subsidy in this regard. Support from Central government can come if they register the equipment being used here. Because it is only for registered machinery that industry can claim subsidies for. We have been reminding the MSME ministry in Delhi but we don’t know when this would happen.
SB: Is getting funds a problem for diamond SMEs in Surat?
Dinesh: Smaller businesses here have it tough to get funding. The diamond SME sector in Surat has been ignored by the banks. We have complained to the reserve bank, finance ministry. Why are they doing this is not known. Banks are indulging in irresponsible lending. How do you explain giving Jatin Mehta’s company, Su-Raj 6,000 crore, while other small diamond MSMEs are parched due to the lack of loans being sanctioned for them. SMEs are being asked to give a security of 3 crore for a loan of 1 crore. Such demands are not fair. Why would an SME, which has 3 crore come for a loan then?
Lending to SMEs is no different than lending to a big company. It is wrong to say that SMEs do not have the vision on how to use their funding. They understand the business and are doing extremely well. Even during the economic downturn they were succeeding.
SB: We are told that the diamond industry of Surat has been in the forefront of social welfare. Can you elaborate on this subject?
Dinesh: In 2006 we started the landmark Beti Bachaao which had us travelling across Gujarat spreading the message and awareness about saving the girl child. This initiative against the practise of sex selection was undertaken by the whole industry. We would hold rallies and outreach meetings with locals wherever we went. Also, we are building a hospital for our workers and educational institutions.