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India’s GJEPC doesn’t just want to position itself as a modern diamond and jewelry manufacturing giant. It wants India to serve as a role model for industrial development, making the “Made in India” brand stand as much for workers’ quality of life as the quality of the products they make. Here’s how making life better for workers makes for better goods.

FOR THE GREATER GOOD

India’s GJEPC doesn’t just want to position itself as a modern diamond and jewelry manufacturing giant. It wants India to serve as a role model for industrial development, making the “Made in India” brand stand as much for workers’ quality of life as the quality of the products they make. Here’s how making life better for workers makes for better goods.

At a recent Philadelphia seminar on jewelry branding, a jeweler asked a gem dealer, “In an age of blood diamonds and offshore sweatshops, have branding requirements changed to reflect growing consumer awareness of these problems?”

“You bet,” the dealer answered. “More and more of my customers want to know where gems are mined and cut; if the miners and workers are paid fairly and treated humanely; if worker welfare and environmental protection laws exist and are enforced.”

The “Made in India” brand stand as much for workers’ quality of life as the quality of the products they make.

In short, as Pramod Agrawal, chairman of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) puts it, “Consumers are factoring conscience into buying decisions for luxury goods.” And this new sensitivity to quality of life as well as product quality has changed the nature of branding.

Welcome to the new world of “ethical sourcing.” This term refers to the process of ensuring that 1) materials needed for manufacture come from politically safe or, at least stable, places and obtained in a responsible way; 2) that the workers making them are safe and treated fairly; and that 3) environmental and social concerns are addressed. Already consumers are seeing the “Fair Trade Certified” label on a growing number of agricultural and clothing products. And the label is expected soon to start appearing on luxury goods as well. That’s because “ethical sourcing” is shorthand for a new, more transparent chain of manufacturing and distribution with each link monitored for compliance with recognized standards for “fair trade.” Even the United Nations has issued fair trade guidelines.

“Rapid modernization gives workers access to improved health care and greater educational opportunities. There is a direct correlation between improved quality of life and product quality.”

Ordinarily, you might expect “ethical sourcing” to impose huge financial costs on manufacturers. But in India’s case, you would be wrong. There, ethics and economics go hand in hand. Besides providing direct employment for around 5 million people, India has long enjoyed a substantial cost-of-labor advantage over its competitors. But the decentralized, unorganized nature of the industry has made implementation of socially beneficial programs difficult. Rapid modernization gives workers access to improved health care and greater educational opportunities. There is a direct correlation between improved quality of life and product quality. “Besides improving worker health and welfare, progressive-minded industrial development enhances worker efficiency and productivity,” says Agrawal. What’s more, it enables India to establish and maintain higher, more uniform quality standards.

In short, “ethical sourcing” combines magnanimity with enlightened self-interest. And that’s GJEPC’s goal: to partner economic and social gain to make the “Made in India” jewelry brand stand for humane, responsible industrial development. Here are thumbnail sketches of GJEPC programs that seek to reposition India as both a modernized and enlightened industrial giant.

BANISHING THE STEREOTYPES

By 1980, India was just emerging as the world’s leading diamond importing and exporting center. Mumbai, the capital city of the country’s diamond industry, was then called Bombay–and modernized cutting factories such as those that were the norm in Belgium and Israel were still the exception not the rule. Twenty-five years later, it is nearly impossible to find the drab, dingy workshops that once typified India. The pace of transformation has been so rapid, factories now share the same standards of modernity, safety and cleanliness as Antwerp or Tel Aviv. One diamond manufacturer has even set up a health clinic for his employees and their families. “I won’t rest until the world stops thinking of India as a third-world country,” the owner says. That means elimination of cottage-industry workshops and the backwards image associated with it.

“GJEPC’s goal is to partner economic and social gain to make the ‘Made in India’ jewelry brand stand for humane, responsible industrial development.”

 

COMMON FACILITY CENTERS (CFC)

Diamond cutting and jewelry manufacturing facilities are spread across India. Rather than attempt to uproot people and centralize them in one place, India is building regional high-tech centers in key production areas that will function as hubs. These manufacturing units will allow companies of all sizes—from small to medium to large—to be clustered in units, all of which are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. This concentration and upgrading of manufacturing will 1) boost worker efficiency and output; 2) streamline production and distribution; 3) equalize competitiveness between companies; and 4) ensure higher, more uniform quality standards. “When firms are situated on a level playing field, the industry as a whole benefits,” says Agrawal. Last but far from least, CFC’s demonstrate a commitment to local development, much needed in a country as vast in size and population as India. So Far, GJEPC has set up 3 CFCs in Gujarat state and 10 more CFCs would be set up in major gem and jewellery clusters accross India.

JEWELRY PARKS

It is common for rapid-growth countries like China, Thailand and Vietnam with burgeoning or sizable jewelry manufacturing sectors to establish industrial parks to accelerate development in this industry. India is also committed to fast-track jewelry sector growth. In Mumbai, thousands of acres of farmland have been set aside for establishment new gem cutting and jewelry manufacturing companies. When complete, this park is expected to employ one million workers.

“GJEPC has launched an artisan database to allow employers to identify and locate workers needed for new skill areas, recognition of their aptitudes and possibly relocation to other centers.”

ARTISAN DATABASE

In an industry with 5 million workers, job training and career advancement are imperative. So GJEPC has launched an artisan database to allow employers to identify and locate workers needed for new skill areas, recognition of their aptitudes and possibly relocation to other centers. Such a program will not only aid in worker recruitment but in notification of educational, health and welfare programs, as well as both public and private allocation of resources set aside for them. The system will work through a registry and ID card system.

“Total healthcare access within the industry now totals over three million workers and their families.”

 

SWASTHYA RATNA GROUP MEDICLAIM PROGRAM

Although GJEPC launched philanthropic ventures in 1999, the group has moved its health and welfare programs into high gear since 2015. Foremost among them is an Indian equivalent of Affordable Heathcare which is being offered industry-wide. At the end of 2017, 422 companies offered the program and 91,190 employees and their families were enrolled. That brought total health care access within the industry to 3.3 million people. However, since India’s diamond and jewelry industry employs 5 million people, GJEPC is aware it has a way to go before reaching what Nirav Bhansali of the GJEPC says is a goal of “100% industry participation.”

EDUCATION PROGRAMS

India’s gem and jewelry trade depends solely on imported rough and polished stones. Given the influx of synthetic and treated diamonds and colored stones, gemological security and education have become high priorities with GJEPC. There are already gem and jewelry institutes in Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Varanasi, with a world-class institute in Surat. These schools have trained more than 55,000 students and are adding more courses, including ones that train workers to become proficient operators of new gem identification, gem cutting and jewelry manufacturing techniques and technologies.

“Gemological security and education have become high priorities with GJEPC. There are already gem and jewelry institutes in Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Varanasi, with a world-class institute in Surat.”

 

PROGRAMS FOR THE GREATER GOOD

While GJEPC has its eye on the future, it is taking a long, hard, compassionate look at the present, initiating humanitarian aid programs for workers in the surrounding world — not just in India but all of Asia.

JEWELLERS FOR HOPE — a GJEPC CSR initiative, believes in outreach beyond the jewelry industry. Under the broad umbrella name of Jewellers for Hope, the organization has donated to the following foundations and causes:

  • In 2014, Jewellers for Hope supported “Make A Wish Foundation” which helped to fulfil the wishes of 1,700 destitute children.
  • In 2016, Jewellers for Hope supported Swades Foundation and Friends of Tribal Society which helped 4,560 individuals by giving access to drinking water in rural households, building household toilets in the community and educating 7,224 students.
  • In 2017, Jewellers for Hope supported three NGOs, namely Nanhi Kali, Girl Rising and Make a Wish Foundation which helped to improve the lives of 1,166 children; 20,144 girls were educated, 540 wishes granted. 

 

“Under the broad umbrella name of ‘Jewellers for Hope,’ the organization has donated to multiple foundations and causes benefitting the people of India.”

 



Nobel Peace Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi of the Association for Voluntary Action addresses Jewellers for Hope.

This year in 2018, “Jewellers for Hope” supported three NGOs, all doing remarkable work for the betterment of the society. They are:

  • ASSOCIATION FOR VOLUNTARY ACTION Started in 1980 by Nobel Peace Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, this group rescues abused children in India. To date, it has rescued more than 86,500 endangered children.
  • GIANTS WELFARE FOUNDATION Launched in 2016, this foundation has already helped fund and organize social services and education programs in diverse fields that include family planning, advanced agriculture, food relief, drug abuse, Aids awareness, environmental protection, medical assistance and education programs for the poor, disadvantaged and people with special needs.
  • BHAGWAN MAHAVEER VIKLANG SAHAYATA SAMIT Dedicated to assisting the disabled, this group has help rehabilitate 1.55 million people.

 

“This is an industry which believes in giving back to society.”
— Pramod Agrawal, chairman of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council.