The countrywide lockdown is showing the jewellers’ community in a warm new light. All the citizenry can see that jewellers, too, are patriots who stand with the nation in its time of crisis. Like any other consumer-facing business, jewellers face intense short-term uncertainty and the strain of supporting their own employees through this difficult time. Nonetheless, jewellers across the land are extending an open hand to Indians in need.
Nobody is required to forget or to forgive the black sheep who have brought such infamy upon the Indian gems and jewellery industry. Their perfidy looms so large in the popular imagination, however, that particularly in these harsh times, Indians must be reminded not to tar every jeweller with the same brush.
The simplest way to do this is to show people some of the infinity of counterexamples — of good and decent jewellers doing as much as they can, far from the limelight of PR, to safeguard their fellow citizens and help in the struggle against the novel coronavirus. After this lockdown finally comes to an end, industry, the media, state authorities and even the public will look at jewellers with refreshed respect.
To begin with, jewellers have unanimously come forward to protect their own staff and karigars. Every Indian jeweller is well aware that daily wagers and karigars, and their families, cannot survive without work and income, without somebody to say, “I’ve got your back.” The gems and jewellery industry is unique in the sheer number and variety of individual workers upon whose skills it depends. Jewellers have not shied away from this responsibility, and they will not throughout this crisis.
But jewellers, so finely attuned to the consumer mood, are also keenly aware of the state of being of society at large — and today they are doing their best to respond even outside their regular environment. Many jewellers have taken it upon themselves to provide food for the hungry in their cities during the lockdown. Some are distributing ready-to-eat food packets, some are sourcing and supplying dry foodgrain, others are sponsoring equipment and protective gear for health care workers, yet others are paying for the manufacture of medical equipment. All of these have owned the responsibility to act in support of their fellow Indians, to prevent the spread and blunt the social trauma of COVID-19.
This is not a temporary flowering of conscience. Jewellers are looking ahead and preparing for conditions after the lockdown. They are well aware that social distancing will be the reality for some time to come, and are planning how to reorganise their systems and practices to accommodate this new normal.
They are also preparing for a flood of consumers in need of urgent assistance. Once the restrictions on movement are eased, jewellers expect many people to turn up to liquidate their assets as a way of recovering from this crisis. Buybacks are not remunerative for jewellers, Nonetheless, they are working hard to streamline the process for customers, and make it as hassle-free as it can be.
The gems and jewellery industry has faced harsh criticism, derision and severe negativity in recent years. At this grave hour, however, the jewellery community has put aside its own distress and is focused on holding the ship steady — for the benefit of all — even as stores are shut and profits have nosedived.
Here is the The Jewellery diaries` team’s tribute to the thousands of jewellers with a great heart: Good souls of our people-centric industry, generations of Indians will remember your quiet generosity in a time of distress. We thank you, applaud you, and offer you a respectful salute.