Jewel in the crown

Mehul Choksi has already conquered the jewellery market in India and now is looking to bring his experience and investment dollars to the Middle East

For tourists and business leaders looking to top up their coffers, the UAE caters to almost every need. For some time now, gold vending machines have been placed in some of the country’s most upmarket locations, such as Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi and Dubai Mall, the world’s largest retail venue.

Further afield in Las Vegas, couples have been able to access vending machines to buy last minute wedding rings and can even get married and divorced at the ATM or drive through.

Now imagine taking that combination of luxury and convenience and applying it directly to the jewellery trade. Gitanjali Group, India’s largest jeweller, took this concept and launched vending machines displaying up to 36 gold, silver and diamond pieces. They proved so popular that it is now planning to expand the machines across India and into the Gulf.

Mehul Choksi, chairman and founder of the company, says the machines could soon be making an appearance in Dubai as part of plans to invest up to $75m masterminding the jeweller’s entry into the lucrative Middle East market.

“At the moment we are targeting opening nearly 75 outlets in India and we are seeing great demand from other countries,” says Choksi.

The Gitanjali Group has an annual turnover of over $2.1bn and has around 4,000 points of sale in India, with additional outlets in China, the US, Japan and the UK.

A favourite with Bollywood film stars, with Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Sonakshi Sinha, Bipasha Basu, Kareena Kapoor already signed up as brand ambassadors, Gitanjali earlier this year opened its first store in Lamcy Plaza in Dubai.

“We are opening a series of stores in the UAE… We have 50 shop-in-shop contracts all over the UAE. We want to be in 110 shops in the UAE within one and a half years time,” Choksi says. “It is a total investment of up to $50m to $75m over the next two years,” he adds.

The expansion will create around 75 new jobs over the next two years, Choksi estimates. The brand is aimed at the expatriate Indian market, but Choksi says it will also seek to launch Arabic-specific products to appeal to residents in the Middle East.

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