Chirag Vora: Following his father's footsteps with Bafleh Jewellery
Bafleh Jewellery is a well-known wholesale and retail name in the jewellery trade in the UAE. Chirag Vora, its director, explains, "Bafleh Jewellery was set up in 1992 by my father Ramesh Vora, with national partner Quwaider Bafleh. We started with a small shop, just 200 square feet in size, which to date, still stands as a retail outlet. Now, we do wholesale for 18-carat, 21-carat and 22-carat gold jewellery. We source our jewellery from 10 to 15 different countries and sell it to the rest of the world."
Vora grew up in Dubai. He studied at the Indian High School (IHS) and went on to do his BBA in Finance and Marketing from the American University in Sharjah (AUS). He joined his father in 2008 and was appointed committee member of the Gold and Jewellery Group the same year.
"One of our core strengths is that we do three caratages. I travel once every month to purchase or sell gold. We have a corporate structure where we have different departments with both forward and backward integration," he says.
Vora adds that its retail division takes care of customers' requests and sources items from its wholesale business.
"People are moving toward more fashionable products in the 22-carat traditional segment. We advise Italian suppliers to design new lines that are popular. Besides, you have antique jewellery, which has been there for years, which has always been fast selling. As for chains, Singaporean and Malaysian designs are popular," he adds.
Speaking about the jewellery trade in Dubai and its strengths compared to other countries, he says, "Dubai gets the best prices in the world as the turnover in terms of volume is high. Italians, Malaysians or Singaporeans say that they just meet their operating costs from Dubai and profits from other markets. So the main competitive strength in Dubai is the pricing. Dubai is still one of the only places where jewellery is sold by gramme, otherwise, it is sold per piece."
Elaborating on operational challenges, Vora points out the rising rents as one of them. "There is a perception that jewellers make a lot of money. When you see the realistic value, jewellers make only 3-4 per cent, while at the wholesale levels we work at 0.5 per cent margins. However, the business turnover is high."
Vora stresses that other retail industries are overtaking the market that jewellers once dominated.
Referring to a survey done by KPMG, Vora says that by 2020, preferences for certain brands may dominate the market. "For example, if you ask my family whether they prefer a branded bag or a piece of gold, the choice would be the branded bag. Buyers do not bargain about the price of a tiffany bracelet. However, when they go to Meena Bazaar to buy jewellery, questions such as resale value, deductions, etc. keep coming up."
Despite being in the jewellery business, Vora only wears his wedding ring. Even a simple piece of jewellery can have elegant results. For some time, trends were moving towards modern designs, he says. Now basic, contemporary, light designs are preferred. "Youth love solitaires - pendants, earrings and rings. Solitaires are fast moving and can receive a return value for the diamonds. In terms of 18-carat jewellery, they want something light that can be used everyday. They don't want the traditional heavy wedding sets that they will not use often. Eighteen-carat jewellery is a favourite among youth," he observes.
Vora hopes to expand the retail set-up in a systematic manner. Staying focused with a conservative attitude is what has kept his family-owned business going. Today, Bafleh has six outlets in Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
Appreciating different cultures
"When we travel to distant villages, we get to see new cultures and appreciate the differences. For example, in a small village in Indonesia, there were 8,000 workers in a jewellery factory. I have come across people in small towns who are far better than us."
On purchase of gold jewellery
- For Dh3,500: Gold pendant
- For Dh5,000: Gold chain
- For Dh7,500: Gold pendant and chain
On purchase of diamond jewellery
- For Dh1,500: Gold pendant
- For Dh2,500: Gold chain
- For Dh5,000: Gold pendant and chain
- For Dh7,500: Gold pendant, chain and earrings
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