Thrust to Gems & Jewelry education: An essential to fill the skill gap By Jaynil Ajmera

The Gems and Jewelry sector in India plays a significant role in the Indian economy, contributing around 6-7 per cent of the country’s GDP. One of the fastest growing sectors, it is extremely export oriented and labour intensive.

India is the world’s largest cutting and polishing centre for diamonds, with the cutting and polishing industry being well supported by government policies. Moreover, around eight out of ten of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in India, as per statistics from the Gems and Jewellery Export promotion Council (‘GJEPC’). The industry is projected to generate up to US$ 35 billion of revenue from exports by 2015. The domestic gems and jewellery industry has the potential to grow to Rs 500,000–530,000 crore (US$ 80.59-85.43 billion) by 2018, according to a study by a leading industry body. The study also projected that the country’s gems and jewellery market could double in the next five years.

However, the viability of these projections has a dark cloud hovering in the form of immense skill gap in the Gems and Jewelry industry. As per a recent report released by National Skill Development Corporation (‘NSDC’) and KPMG, the Gems and Jewelry sector will create 3.59 million additional jobs till 2022. The problem that arises here is the lack of skilled workers in the industry to fill up the vacancies that are created. With innovative high end and capital intensive equipment used in the manufacturing space, the traditional workers fall prey to the skill deficit to operate these machines.

Further, the current business scenario has given a lucrative platform for startups to hit the field. However, the new breed of entrepreneurs cannot succeed without adequate skills and knowledge about the industry. For example, if a newcomer in the diamond jewellery space, who is looking to buy VVS grade diamonds, does not have adequate practical grading skills, he may end up buying lower quality diamonds at a higher cost. This would result in a duplicitous loss for such newcomer.

All these complexities point fingers to just one solution: Education and skill development for every facet of the Gems and Jewelry industry. Based on its potential for growth and value addition, the Government of India has viewed the sector as a thrust area for export promotion. The government has recently undertaken various measures to promote investments and to upgrade technology and skills to promote brand India in the international market. Education needs to be imparted, broadly in four categories: Rough Diamonds, Polished Diamonds, Gemstones, jewelry designing and manufacturing.

The Government has taken some important initiatives with the Skill India campaign, with the NSDC setting up several sector focussed councils for skill development in various sectors. One such initiative for the Gems and Jewelry industry was the setting up of the Gems and Jewelry Skill Council of India (‘GJSCI’). The GJSCI has prepared a catalogue of skills needed in the sector and is funding skill training and development program with their training partners. The initiative and the intention of GJSCI and NSDC must be lauded.

However, one must not get carried away by the incentive and the initiative and should also keep a check on the implementation. If you look closer, you can identify few flaws in such a scheme. Several of the training courses offered are theory and presentation oriented. In a capital intensive industry where precious materials are dealt with on a daily basis, employees and entrepreneurs need to ensure practical skills of the highest level without which they cannot succeed. Training and education in the Gems and Jewelry industry is not about a stamped certificate but about enhancing the capabilities of the students with required skills and practically grooming them for a successful career in the industry.
Secondly, certain courses have a deceitfully short duration (a week, 10 days, etc.) and the syllabus being inadequate. With such kind of training, students are forced to learn on the job which in turn creates a burden on the employers. Hence it becomes difficult to land jobs for such students. To enable students to be industrially equipped, efforts need to be taken to ensure comprehensive training is provided to enable the students to be hands-on with the relevant field knowledge.

Further, an important burden that hampers the progress of Gems and Jewelry education, both, for private as well as other players is the high levy of service tax. The burden of service tax puts a dent on the working capital of the institutes and discourages them to make progressive investments in the latest technology. Since the government is taking several steps to promote education in this industry, service tax exemption for educational institutions, whether affiliated with the Government or not, will be an unparalleled incentive that can be provided to boost the infrastructure of Gems and Jewelry education. We, at J K Diamonds Institute of Gems & Jewelry believe that India has a strong potential to be a global leader in Gems and Jewelry education and this opportunity should be grasped.

Another aspect is to consider advancements in technology. It is essential not only to train students to understand the latest innovations but also encourage the industry to adapt to the changing technological environment to increase efficiency and improve productivity. For example, there is an increasing trend of 3D printing jewelry, and the same, if viable should be adapted.

India is deemed to be the hub of the global jewellery market and there is no dearth of opportunities in this sector. The employment opportunities as shown above, will only be on a rise as India has gained global popularity in this sector. Over recent years, China has been aggressive in portraying itself as a substitution and that has only encouraged the Indian think-tank to push for better facilities and incentives for the industry. Hence, the requirement of skilled labour will take centre stage.

From a business perspective, one cannot miss out from bringing out the ever increasing entrepreneurial boom that the country is witnessing currently, which is also evident in the Gems and Jewelry industry. On a regular basis once can hear new jewelry showroom openings and new diamond merchants are on a rise. To be successful as a newcomer, apart from quality products, you need to adapt to the changing marketing environment and use of networking technology. A strong network base can help such businessmen attract new customers from distinct backgrounds.

With the advent of social media, the market size as well as market opportunities are given a boost and gives you the capability and platform to be at par with the big corporates online. With rising income levels, the demand for the gems and jewelry will only rise with time. The luxurious market of diamond jewelry may be a concern due to disparity in polished and rough diamonds, but with all the positivity in the air, one can only be optimistic about the outcome.

All in all, Gems and Jewelry education needs to take a major leap in terms of quality and perspective to ensure stability of human resource, both, in terms of employment as well as entrepreneurship. The outlook of the industry seems stable and can be enhanced with a planned and innovation adaptable vision, both by the industry as well as the Government.
The author is Gemologist, J K Diamonds Institute of Gems & Jewelry. For any clarifications, you may contact at + 91 98206 83390 / jay@jkdiamondsinstitute.com

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