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When Mudit Vora moved to Adelaide from Dubai in 2013 to join The Jewellery Group, it was quite a readjustment. Having lived in the United Arab Emirates for four years prior, after moving there from India fresh out of college, he had become accustomed to the hectic pace and opulent lifestyle of the desert hub.
“A lot of people say it’s a city that never sleeps and I don’t disagree,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
Adelaide, on the other hand, was much more low-key. For Vora, the switch was a culture shock. But now, 10 years in, he has grown to appreciate the quirks of the South Australian capital.
“As you grow older, you start to look at life in a different way,” he reflects. “There are a lot of good things about this place. So yeah, I complained, probably for the first few years about not liking Adelaide, but I love it now.”
Although Vora was hooked on life in Dubai, it was an unmissable opportunity that brought him to Australian shores.
During his years in the Middle East, he had worked his way up the ladder at M Suresh Middle East’s local outpost where he was involved in the manufacturing and wholesale of loose polish diamonds and jewelry direct to retailers across the Middle East region.
“Being a brick and mortar business, ecommerce is never really something you prioritize, but we suddenly saw it was a huge opportunity.”
But in 2011, Mumbai-based M Suresh confirmed it would acquire Australian firm The Jewellery Group, encompassing 102 Zamels and 27 Mazzuchelli’s stores. The deal marked the start of a new chapter in Vora’s life.
In 2013, Vora moved to Adelaide to take up the role of International Logistics Manager at The Jewellery Group. Once again, he climbed the corporate ladder through various roles in distribution, logistics and buying and was eventually appointed CEO in July 2019.
But the world of business is never smooth sailing and, along with the highs, the last 10 years has served up a plethora of challenges.
“As a business, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were trying to find the right way forward, strategically,” Vora admits. “In the last 10 years, The Jewellery Group has gone through a fair few ups and downs in terms of how Mazzucchelli’s and Zamels have performed as brands.”
So when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Vora and his team were in the throes of strategically reexamining every aspect of its brand positioning. But suddenly, in April 2020, the company was forced to close every one of its stores due to forced lockdowns.
Although the uncertainty was initially daunting, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“We had millions of dollars of stock, so what could we do? We actually started fast-tracking our online channels, our ecommerce channels – something which we hadn’t prioritized for a long time,” he says. “Being a brick and mortar business, ecommerce is never really something you prioritize, but we suddenly saw it was a huge opportunity.”
The website was up and running within just three weeks, and although the stores reopened in May, it opened up a promising new channel for both brands.
“The jewelry retail business is known to be one of the last ones to adopt something new, because we are very structured in the way we do things. We don’t like change a lot, to be honest,” he explains.
“The COVID-19 pandemic taught us to be agile. You have to look at each month differently, because you never know what will happen tomorrow. It gave us an opportunity to review all of our processes, and it forced us to go digital.”
Vora says it was a shift that was long overdue. Having an ecommerce channel has only added value, according to Vora. Not only that, but it has helped the brands reach entirely new markets.
“With almost 70 stores across Australia, with Mazzucchelli’s predominantly in Western Australia and South Australia, it has helped us easily expand our brand into the eastern seaboard – New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory,” he explains.
That eastern expansion has long been part of the plan for Mazzucchelli’s, so this digital foray has helped to give the brand a local presence before the big investment of a physical store. Similarly, expanding Zamels nationally has been a much more structured approach by identifying gaps digitally.
While Zamels with its lower price point is a straightforward online sale, Mazzucchelli’s has taken a slightly different tack due to its higher price tags.
“They’ve been around for a long time, but in the last three-to-four years, the acceptance of lab-grown diamonds has been quite amazing.”
“What we’ve been able to do is try to educate the customer more about what the benefits of diamonds are,” Vora says. “And that’s where I feel we’ve been able to use ecommerce more, not just as a selling avenue but as more of an avenue for education and interaction.”
As for Zamels, Vora is confident that by reinvesting in the brand’s existing stores, it will get an all-important boost. Innovation looks set to play an important part in Zamels future, too, with lab-grown diamonds a focal point.
“They’ve been around for a long time, but in the last three-to-four years, the acceptance of lab-grown diamonds has been quite amazing,” he enthuses.
“For the Zamels customer who is after a good product but at a reasonable price, and who wants a bigger diamond but can’t really spend A$10,000, A$15,000, A$20,000 [US$6,600, US$9,900, US$13,200] on a one-carat diamond, lab-grown means you can probably get something similar, or probably even better, at a fraction of a price.”
Meanwhile, for Mazzucchelli’s, the focus is on offering something unique, with personalized one-off styles on the agenda.
But the greatest opportunity for The Jewellery Group, according to Vora, lies in its people.
“For me, it was about how do you make sure each of those different personalities, whether in the leadership team, support office team or the sales professionals on the floor, have the same goal?” he muses.
“One of the most challenging things, but also one of the most exciting things, is to make different people think alike. It makes your life as a CEO easier when you have a team who cares and is as invested in the business as you are.”