THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A few years ago, Kanthi Balakrishnan went to hear a concert by singer KJ Yesudas at Hyderabad. At the interval, she met Prabha Yesudas, who was wearing a glittering diamond necklace. A curious Kanthi asked for the jeweller’s name. It was the Kochi-based P P Sunny, the chairman and managing director of Sunny Diamonds Pvt. Ltd. Their retail outlet, a three-storeyed white-painted building on Rajaji Road, is impossible to miss when you go past.
So Kanthi, who is 90 now, contacted Sunny and asked for a bangle. After making it, when Sunny was about to send it, Kanthi requested a personal delivery. So, when Sunny next went to Hyderabad, accompanied by his wife, he presented it to her. Later, when Kanthi came to Kannur for treatment, she asked for some more jewellery.
“Once you start buying diamonds, you will keep buying it all the time,” says Sunny. “Diamonds are forever. My finger ring, after several generations, will remain the same. This is unlike gold, which can be melted.”
As he talks, in his first-floor office, a call comes on the intercom. Sunny goes down to the shop floor to meet Pattabi Raman, a former chairman of Dhanalakshmi Bank, whose wife has come to buy some jewellery. When he returns, Sunny says, “When I decided to launch Sunny Diamonds, Pattabi Sir gave me advice which I took to heart. He said that when you embark on a retail outlet, you should have double the assets. In other words, if you are investing Rs 50 lakh, one should have assets of Rs 1 crore. The idea is that in case, the business fails, you can pay off the debts.”
There are two ways to start a retail outlet. One method is to take a loan from the bank and start with a rented building, with limited furnishing and investment. When you get a good profit, you can pay off the loan. “The other way is the way I did it,” says Sunny. “I bought land, and made a building. The reason is because I am not working for my generation, but for the next one, too.”
Sunny has three children. While the eldest, De Paul, 26, lives and works in New York, Prem, 21, is doing his Bachelor’s in Business Administration while Rohan, 12, is in school.
And things are going well. On January 9, Sunny Diamonds will celebrate its tenth anniversary. The company has retail outlets in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode also.
And in order to generate sales, Sunny began a unique Money Back Guarantee. “You can bring back the diamond at any time and I will pay back the price,” says Sunny. “If a customer feels he has been cheated, he can return the diamond. My shop is like a trading facility. Other jewellers cannot do this, because they have a huge profit built into the selling price.”
So how does he manage? “I make my margins at the buying point and not at the sale,” he says. However this money-back is not available for solitaires, uncut diamonds, polky and rose-cut diamonds.
All sorts of people are his customers. They include middle-class professionals, women who could not afford diamond jewellery earlier, businessmen and even farmers.Sometime ago, a farmer and his wife came from Kattappanna. “They said that they did not know much about diamonds, but their Bangalore-based daughter wanted a diamond for her wedding,” says Sunny. “They were giving Rs 5 lakh as dowry, out of which Rs 3 lakh was in the form of diamonds. They chose a wedding set.”
In fact, 50 per cent of the sales of Sunny are of wedding sets: necklace, earrings and finger ring. The price range is from Rs 45,000 to Rs 4.5 crore. While getting photographed, next to a shining necklace, with green emeralds, Sunny says, in a casual voice, “This is about 35.” Then he pauses, and adds with a smile, “Lakh.”
Sunny usually deals in Belgian diamonds, because, according to him, they are the best in the world. “If you want to know whether a diamond is internally flawless, you have to verify each and every diamond manually,” he says.
“I can do this because the manpower cost is less in India than in other countries. Abroad, this will cost $10 an hour and I cannot afford that.” Before a customer buys a diamond, he has to look for the four C’s: Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat Weight.
Cut: Diamonds are renowned for there ability to transmit light and sparkle intensely. “The quality of a cut is crucial to the diamond’s final beauty,” says Sunny. “Of the 4Cs it’s the most complex and technically difficult to assess. Cut is often confused with the shape of the diamond.”
Colour: The colour gives an idea of the beauty and brilliance of a diamond. “However, colourless diamonds are of the highest purity,” says Sunny. “But they appear white most of the time.”
Clarity: There are surface defects known as blemishes. The less the blemishes, the higher the price.
Carat: A carat weight is the measurement of how much a diamond weighs. A metric carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams. Meanwhile, when asked for reasons behind his successful enterprise, Sunny says, “You should be sincere and honest. It is with these twin qualities that you will gain a name, trust and credibility.
If you become greedy and make money at all costs, then you will not succeed in the long run. Secondly, you should be dedicated at all times to your work.”