Falling sales prompts jewelry makers to think twice before rehiring migrant artisans

KOLKATA: Migrant gold artisans who returned to their hometowns during the lockdown now want to return to their places of work, but many jewelry makers are unwilling to return as the business has shrunk significantly.

Jewelers are only willing to take them to work if they take half their wages for at least three months until Diwali, when the industry expects sales to pick up.

“Manufacturers in Mumbai have said they are unwilling to increase their overheads. Sales have plunged and they are not ready to increase production costs, ”India Bullion & Jewelers Association national secretary Surendra Mehta told ET.

Most of the artisans, or karigars, who work in the country’s jewelry-making centers are from West Bengal. The main hubs are Mumbai, Kolkata, Rajkot, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Thrissur, Junagadh, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Delhi.

“The outright sale of jewelry has plunged to 5% of the pre-Covid level,” said All India Gem & Jewelery Domestic Council chairperson Anantha Padmanabhan. “Consumers who have an urgent need to buy jewelry come to the stores. And those who have deposited money into monthly gold buying programs come to take jewelry against their deposits. Otherwise, no customer comes because they are afraid of being infected with the coronavirus, ”he said.

“We told the artisans that we can offer them half of their wages for the next three months. We hope that by Diwali things will bounce back and people will come and buy, ”Padmanabhan said. “There is a lot of pent-up demand in the market. We will increase their wages to the normal level by then.

Some gold artisans have returned to Bengaluru, Coimbatore and other places in search of work, said Ashok Bengani, president of the Calcutta Gem & Jewelers’ Welfare Association. Almost 400,000 artisans returned to Bengal from various jewelry-making centers after the lockdown was declared.

West Bengal has decided to offer space at a subsidized rate to artisans at its gem and jewelry park located in Ankurhati, near Nabanna, the administrative seat of the state government.

Bengani said 22 artisans have so far submitted requests for space in the park. “Each will have 500 square feet of space to set up manufacturing units. The park is also home to great jewelers like Tanishq, Malabar Gold & Diamond, and Senco Gold & Diamond. They can buy the jewelry from these artisans. In addition, we will help them sell their products to other jewelers like GRT Jewelers, ”said Bengani.


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