Richa Singh, Managing Director, Natural Diamond Council, India and The Middle East: “Diamonds can represent a few things that stay true to all of us – strength, sparkle, and eternal love.”

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Richa Singh, Managing Director, Natural Diamond Council, India and The Middle East:
Richa Singh, Managing Director, Natural Diamond Council, India and The Middle East

In an in-depth interview with Jewelpedia, Richa Singh, Managing Director, Natural Diamond Council, India and The Middle East, takes us through the Council’s activities, ongoing consumer campaigns, future prospects, and more.

Jewelpedia: As a global authority on natural diamonds worldwide, what significant changes have the Natural Diamond Council (NDC) brought to the landscape of the diamond jewellery market in India?

Richa Singh: The Natural Diamond Council promotes the desirability of natural diamonds and is a trusted resource and authority for, both, consumers and the industry. 

Our consumer-facing platform has been repositioned under the brand name ‘Only Natural Diamonds’ (OND), a definitive digital destination for natural diamonds that is aimed at inspiring and educating consumers about the values and heritage of natural diamonds. A significant part of our work is to also promote the noteworthy innovation happening throughout the world of diamond jewellery.

Over the years, we have introduced a variety of campaigns and industry-wide initiatives in cohesion with our trade and retail partners. In an effort to position natural diamonds as an aspirational and luxurious product, making them perfect for celebrating life’s real moments, these initiatives are focused on skill-building and encouraging consumers to support local jewellers.

We introduced a trade portal and an e-learning platform for the Indian retail community and sales force respectively. The trade portal, a first for India, enables retailers to not only collaborate but also arms them with best-in-class marketing assets as well as a chance to showcase their designs to customers across the country. The purpose of the e-learning platform is to make abundant information on natural diamonds available with compelling stories and facts about the history of natural diamonds, which retailers can use to tie into the emotional aspect of selling. 

Jewelpedia: How has 2021 panned out for the NDC in India? What kind of growth have you seen last year amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic? And what is your projection of the state of the diamond jewellery market and demand in 2022?

Richa Singh: With 45 million website visits, 306+ million social impressions, and 210 million YouTube views, 2021 was a glorious year. The consumer is more curious about natural diamonds now – they want to make it a part of their everyday style statement, explore more gifting options featuring the gemstone, and pass on the uniqueness that natural diamonds present. 

As per The Global Diamond Industry 2021-22 report by Bain & Company, rough diamond prices grew by 21 per cent and polished prices by 9 per cent in 2021. The demand is expected to grow even in 2022 with a strong holiday season, strengthening consumer confidence in major markets, and a limited supply of rough diamonds. 

We did over 464 brand collaborations in 2021 and explored opportunities to show exceptional talent and expertise. We showcased multiple brands from across the country and brought forth their exceptional design talents and availability of jewellery that appeals to all consumers. We collaborated with Lakme Fashion Week to showcase to the world that diamonds are an integral part of fashion – they are a crucial component of the looks created. These one-of-a-kind initiatives set the stage to collaborate with ace designers. 

The year 2021 started on a monumental note by putting a spotlight on the latest diamond trends with its first-ever Trend Report. Featuring and collaborating with a range of editors, stylists, designers, celebrities, and industry insiders such as Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Lucia Silvestri, Viren Bhagat, Amin Jaffer, Bibhu Mohapatra, Gaurav Gupta, and Raghavendra Rathore added an extra spark to 2021 with their precious insights. 

In August, a first-of-its-kind two-day virtual diamond festival in collaboration with Vogue India was presented to the world. Experts thought leaders from the industry, and connoisseurs united to revel in the brilliant knowledge of natural diamonds. To tell the story of today’s expression of natural diamonds and their continuous impact on the world, the NDC in November introduced a coffee table book titled ‘Diamonds: Diamond Stories’ published by Assouline. 

With a renewed sense of hope, the NDC aims to make 2022 more innovative and inspire consumers to live the natural diamond dream.

“The NDC members, directly and indirectly, support the livelihoods of 10 million people worldwide, generating over US$ 16 billion in net socio-economic and environmental benefits.”

Jewelpedia: Today, consumers are expecting sustainability and environmental care in most of the products and services they acquire. How natural diamond fits in this behavioural change in our society?

Richa Singh: Over the past few years, we have seen a shift in consumer mindset where they are persistently looking to invest in sustainable practices. After a lot of introspection, the world is gradually moving towards adopting conscious choices as they re-think and re-evaluate habits and behaviours. The impact is being witnessed in the form of ‘conscious luxury’ that has turned into a movement to create awareness about mindful consumption. 

The modern diamond industry has been actively working towards making the world a better place with its sustainability initiatives. The NDC members, directly and indirectly, support the livelihoods of 10 million people worldwide, generating over US$ 16 billion in net socio-economic and environmental benefits, as per an independent study by Trucost ESG Analysis. These benefits are infused into community development via social programmes, infrastructure investment, education, and local employment. 

The natural diamond industry abides by numerous legal frameworks alongside country-specific regulations to ensure it does business in an ethical and sustainable way. The United National Global Compact (UNGC) and 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a guiding framework for all members who have developed strategies to support these in their operations. 

The Council puts a spotlight on the industry’s decades-long commitment to sustainability with the recent ‘Thank You, By The Way’ campaign in partnership with the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). 

The initiative celebrates natural diamond purchases that benefit our communities and the environment globally. All these steps have come a long way in ensuring that every natural diamond purchase is cherished while celebrating luxury. 

Jewelpedia: Considering the impact of the pandemic and the adaptation of digital touchpoints in the diamond jewellery sales journey, what would you say buyers want from a shopping experience now?

Richa Singh: Consumers are turning to different platforms to educate themselves and make informed choices. They wish to buy fewer but better things that would last forever and invest in jewellery that is not only meant to be kept in a locker. They want pieces that hold meaning for them and could be worn and enjoyed every day. In fine jewellery, we are seeing a resurgence of the timeless diamond classics. 

Hence, it is key that we as an industry maintain a presence at every point of contact and as an authority, be able to provide fresh information that the consumers are looking for. This cultural transformation has also encouraged brands to explore digital-first initiatives, making it increasingly important to inspire and interact with consumers.

Given our exceptional performance on digital platforms in 2021, our focus has been on our website, Instagram and YouTube. Through research and impressions, we realised that the consumer is utilising these platforms to explore new things. This is the reason the luxury industry too is shifting toward D2C initiatives. When it comes to purchasing jewellery, people are looking for varied craftsmanship as well as designs that can seamlessly fit into their new routines. 

This has propagated a ‘phygital’ way of shopping that is aesthetically pleasing and comes very close to an in-person experience of buying jewellery from the store. It was a revolutionary step when top jewellery retailers resorted to mediums like WhatsApp and Facetime to recreate the on-ground experience and forge a sense of community and trust around the brand. 

“We want to share a more contemporary approach to the diamond dream, with jewellery being an essential part of meaningful moments, both big and small.”

Jewelpedia: The NDC has launched its second global advertising campaign ‘For Moments Like No Other’ with actress and NDC global ambassador, Ana de Armas. What kind of message did you want to deliver to the audience through it? How did consumers respond?

Richa Singh: The new ‘For Moments Like No Other’ campaign celebrates a brilliant, energetic return to adventure, wanderlust, new connections, and romantic instances, showcasing the integral role of natural diamonds in rejoicing life. It captures the prevailing sentiment of optimism as the world opens and we get the opportunity to honour the meaningful moments of life with our loved ones.

Ana brings this alive through her spontaneity and the TVC emanates the ‘Love Life’ manifesto to the core. Consumers after a long period of lockdown not only enjoyed the campaign but also related to the sentiments it evoked of being free and enjoying the outdoors with relationships, which are the strongest bonds of life.

Jewelpedia: How can diamond brands inspire millennials and generation Z to feel passionate about natural diamonds? 

Richa Singh: Consumers today value connections and cherish their time spent with loved ones. They have come to understand that to immortalise special yet everyday moments, they need a gesture that is eternal. Amidst the pandemic, consumers haven’t been able to interact with their loved ones to the extent they would have liked to. Hence, they crave avenues to express their love and affection. Always in search of new experiences, the millennial and Gen Z audience is consuming a higher amount of content.

We created over 220 pieces of content in 2021 because the consumer is looking for more interesting ways to learn about natural diamonds and the trends surrounding it. Natural diamonds reflect not just as ultimate symbols of love but also as prized heirlooms that can be passed down to generations. Natural diamonds also fit in perfectly with the concept of slow fashion. They are versatile, they never go out of style, their sparkle never fades, and they can be worn with, both, traditional and contemporary clothes. Consumers increasingly want jewellery that can be worn every day and be brought out of lockers. Whether it be a wedding or a zoom call, to boost your confidence or a coffee date, the jewellery should be timeless and fit all occasions. It can help create your mood or a feeling we want to cling to – we are here to celebrate everyday diamond. 

Catering to our audience’s needs and perspectives, we have worked with a diverse set of collaborators – featuring Viren Bhagat, Rhea Kapoor, Katerina Perez, Francesca Cartier Brickell, Maharani of Baroda Radhikaraje Gaikwad, Aditi Rao Hydari, and more – to showcase the best in the industry. 

Now more than ever, consumers want to put sustainability at the forefront of their choices. They want to understand the influence of what they are buying and how their purchases are contributing to the regions and communities producing them. The natural diamond industry, for decades, has been uplifting communities and creating a socioeconomic impact that nurtures livelihoods across the world. Understanding this, undeniably inspires buyers to invest more in natural diamonds and celebrate this effect while rejoicing with a timeless accessory.

Jewelpedia: What are the top consumer as well as design trends to have come from the diamond jewellery market recently? 

Richa Singh: The NDC is focused on making diamonds appealing to a younger audience who seek minimalistic, everyday wear jewellery as the need of the hour. We have redefined traditional diamond moments by emphasising how diamonds are not solely the purview of romantic interests or formal occasions. We want to share a more contemporary approach to the diamond dream, with jewellery being an essential part of meaningful moments, both big and small. With this approach, we brought together the best minds in the fields of design, fashion, lifestyle, journalism, and jewellery who form the first-ever style collective to predict the most popular design trends among consumers. 

In 2021, this led to trends that are a clear expression of this cultural mindset. Shoulder dusters and statement cuffs were chosen, as these attention-grabbing pieces are all about being in the present. Geometric designs, another big trend, come from a strong desire for order, and given the uncertainty, we have faced, it makes sense that we desire the logic of symmetry. 

In an ever-changing world, we have finally been able to blur the lines, which is why jewellery is now not limited by traditional specifications. Men and women can wear similar pieces but in a very individualistic manner and that’s what gender fluid jewellery is all about. Jewellery is an emotion and the new heirloom represents the sentiment we attach to it. Collected lovingly, and polished carefully, every time you hold it or wear it, you are reminded of where you come from.

I believe that diamonds can represent a few things that stay true to all of us – strength, sparkle, and eternal love.

 

(The interview with Richa Singh, Managing Director, Natural Diamond Council, India and The Middle East has been published in the March-April issue of Jewelpedia)

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