Senco Gold and Diamonds was born in West Bengal. What started as individual stores under different names adopted a unified identity and took wing. Over time, it nurtured national ambitions and is well and truly realising them.
Edited excerpts from a conversation with Joita Sen, Director, Senco Gold & Diamonds.
Senco Gold and Diamonds plays in a crowded jewellery sector. How do you stand out from competition, especially when major brands are focusing on the East, your base?
The trust factor and transparency provided to customers is among the many factors that makes us distinguish ourselves. Understanding solutions and services required by consumers is very important. Every jewellery brand is associated with important occasions in a person’s life like weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. Senco as a brand understands that we are part of a person’s journey of a lifetime. These are the values we cherish and that forms the base for all our communication. Gold is a luxury asset and with time jewellery designs and fashion has changed. Understanding the demands and catering to the needs is what we do. Unique and updated designs are what speak to consumers.
What is your contribution to sales from the East, North, West and South? Which are the focus growth regions?
Our majority base is East of India as we are a brand from West Bengal. For the longest time we grew in the East and then we started moving towards the North, West and South of the country.
Our growth started with the franchise model and it helped us to grow in Bengal and beyond. First we established ourselves in the state, then the region, and then other parts of the country.
A majority of the sales contribution is from the East, then North followed by West and South.
Gold price is at record high. Has it affected the purchasing behaviour of customers? What are the key trends that you have noticed in gold purchasing behaviour in the East vs other parts of India?
Gold has always been an important asset and variation in gold prices has always been there. Every year, there is a festive period and wedding season and that makes gold and India integrated culturally as well. Over the years we haven’t seen much of a change in the purchasing behaviour. It has always been an investment commodity. As a trend, wearing everyday jewellery, which are fancy, trendy and light weight has emerged.
When it comes to buying patterns of East versus the rest, every region has its own cultural preferences.
There is a pan-India taste or trend that unites India. The young Indian consumers have a commonality in gold purchase which is influenced by international culture. Yet, regional and localised preferences exist. For example, Polki designs are very popular in North India, in the West the Sushi design, Shakha and Pola in the East, and temple jewellery in the South.
You have over 130 showrooms across 13 states. How is this split across franchised and owned stores?
Currently, it stands at 136. Fifty five percent of this is through the franchise model and the rest is company owned.
In the Eastern part, we have the franchise and owned model. In other regions it is mostly company-owned showrooms.
You launched two more stores in Mumbai in December 2022. Tell us about the brand’s evolution and consumer acceptance across markets.
We are a legacy brand of over five decades. By the time (late CMD) Shaankar Sen inherited the family business, he had three stores. Due to the lack of technology and other reasons, expansion beyond a region was impossible during that point. Different shops had different names. In 1984, he started the concept of branding by bringing all the showrooms under one brand – Senco Gold. The concept of branding and onboarding brand ambassadors was introduced.
The brand was started with a vision of going beyond the cities to suburbs and then to Tier 1 and 2 cities. We wanted to be a pan-India company and have a vision of entering international markets, where we are already exporting gold to.
As we have expanded our presence beyond the East, the brand has been doing good and the reception from the consumers has also been overwhelming.
Senco products are available in market places like Amazon and Flipkart. Gold being expensive, what are the steps taken by the brand on the safety front? Any initiatives to assure customers?
We started with our website and then went on to work with marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart in the late 2000s. The entire expansion beyond Eastern India and digital presence started during that point.
There is a ticket size for the products you are selling digitally. High value gold items are not sold through online channels. Jewellery is a tactile product and it is an experience. The products have to be touched and felt before the purchase. A lot of products like wedding jewellery, we don’t advise purchasing online. It should be tried at stores instead. The online products are capped at Rs.1 lakh and our average ticket sizes are between Rs.20,000 and 30,000.
There is a huge process behind delivering it, security measures are in place. The packing to delivery system follows a certain standard. The market places also follow all the standard security and safety measures.
Take us through my My DigiGold and the segment’s contribution to the brand’s overall sales.
My DigiGold is a portal and app to buy and sell gold. Like any other platforms, you can also see the price and purchase gold. What differentiates the platform is that we have tied up with partners and with their help you can save the gold. Later you can come to Senco showrooms or online platforms and redeem the gold. We provide offers on that as well.
The segment is relatively new. We haven’t promoted it very heavily. Considering that, the consumer response has been good.
Is Senco a digital-first brand? Can you talk more on the split between digital spends and ads on other media?
We are active on digital platforms. Social media is a big part of our marketing plans. We also resort to traditional ATL activities where we have active presence. Among the spends, 50 pc go towards digital and 50 on ATL activities.
Senco’s Women’s Day 2023 campaign #SunoJoTumChunho
How are jewellery for men and kids performing?
We have a men’s collection called Aham, where Sourav Ganguly is the brand ambassador. Men’s jewellery is an ignored segment. Hence, we decided to bring it into focus. We bring out new collections and designs. We also introduce innovative products from time to time. For example, in Bengal it’s a tradition to give gold buttons, but the dressing pattern and style has changed over the years. So we transformed that into cufflinks and button covers. We have to cater to the need of the time to stay relevant.
The kids segment is also growing for us. We have introduced products with Disney characters as the kids’ requirements are also growing and they are becoming choosy. We are introducing trendy designs in that segment as well.
The jewellery manufacturing industry in India remains fragmented and unorganised. Karigars have to face issues like poor working conditions and are underpaid. What are the initiatives undertaken by Senco for the betterment of Karigars you are working with?
Currently there is a good number of organised sets of karigars and the conditions which were of concern before have been improving. According to me, everything is a circle. If you see internationally, the jewellery is sold by its craftsmanship. It is an art which you are buying. In India, negotiations are done on the making charges. You don’t ask for discounts on a branded mobile phone, but do it with a jewellery piece. If the country at large is not respecting culture and artisans and their craftsmanship, then how does it benefit them?
We are trying to spread awareness about respecting and valuing craftsmanship. We are bringing initiatives to improve their conditions. We are also collaborating with governmental initiatives and creating manufacturing units etc.
Senco has received the observation letter (approval to float IPO) from SEBI in 2022. What are the brand’s post IPO plans?
We want to continue with our expansion. We wish to be present in more places; plans are focused on growth maximisation.
Specifically in South India, you have a presence in Bengaluru. Do you have any expansion plans for the South, where there are several entrenched players?
We have a presence in Hyderabad as well. As of now, we haven’t thought about it, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t actively venture into that part of the country.
The market demands are very different in South India. Currently, we are focused on expanding in the East, North and West.
On brand ambassadors…
We have regional brand ambassadors to align with our hyper local approach. We have Bengali actor Madhumita Sarcar and Assamese actor Sunita Kaushik. Jaya Ahsan and Ishaa Saha are also our ambassadors. Onboarding them has helped the brand in a big way. Each of these actors has her own personality and stature, her own level of connectivity and popularity with consumers. Thus far, the response has been good and we are happy and excited that they are part of the brand.
We have Kiara Advani and Vidya Balan as our national brand ambassadors.
Senco builds relationships. Balan and Ganguly have been associated with us for over eight years and have played a good part in the brand’s growth.
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