Diwali celebrations this year would be not as pompous as it used to be for the workers in the city’s diamond industry which is currently witnessing a slump. The diamond barons of Surat — famous for doling out cars, apartments and jewellery as gifts to their workers during Diwali — are looking to sustain their operations without laying off their workforce.
Hare Krishna Exports Pvt Ltd, which had presented 496 Fiat Punto cars, 207 two-bedroom flats and diamond studded jewellery to it’s workers as performance incentive, would not be doling out such expensive gifts to its employees this year.
“The situation is very bad. We are looking at sustaining ourselves and our workforce. How can we dole out gifts during such times,” said Savji Dholakia, owner of Hare Krishna Exports, who created a flutter during the 2013 Diwali when he gifted Chevrolet cars to 72 employees.
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Though Savji refused to talk any further about his enterprise, he admitted that the overall situation in the diamond industry was precarious.
Similarly, another big diamantaire from Surat, Lalji Patel — famous for buying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monogrammed suit for Rs 4.31 crore — was also looking to preserve his existing workforce. He, however, hoped that demand for polished diamonds would return to the market by Diwali.
“We expect demand for polished diamonds to increase by Diwali. Currently, there is a slight dip in demand for polished diamonds, but our exports to eight countries largely remains unaffected,” said Patel while sitting in his office, atop a seven-storied diamond polishing unit belonging to Dharmanandan Diamonds Pvt Ltd at Katargam in Surat city.
Patel’s firm currently has 7,000 employees, including 4,000 diamond workers.”Not a single person from our workforce has been laid off till now,” said the diamantaire who has a turnover of Rs 6,000 crore.
When asked how was he managing to hold on to his workforce during the slump, he said, “Though we have not scaled down on our production, we are polishing diamonds that are 30 per cent lower in value compared to the last year. For instance, one carat of polished diamond on an average cost between Rs 10,000-5,00,000. But due to poor demand, we are not polishing diamonds of higher value.”
According to Patel, confidence of the industry has been shaken after a couple of diamond units like Godhani Gems Pvt Ltd went down few weeks ago. “Ours is an industry that runs largely on confidence and trust. After the Godhani incident, the confidence has been shaken.
People are holding back more out of fear. This fear has affected the diamond business,” said Patel, narrating the fallout on the industry after a diamond polishing unit in Surat shut down leaving around 1,200 employees jobless. Godhani Gems owner did not respond to repeated calls.
Smaller units have been the worst affected in the slump and a few diamond traders, such as Nilesh Dobariya who runs a unit with 20 emery wheels, were looking to cut corners for survival. “To survive, we have reduced working hours of diamond polishers to seven hours from the earlier nine hours. Now, we have to pay less in form of salaries,” said Dobariya whose unit is located at Varachha.