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Minimalistic jewellery is in, heavy and chunky jewellery is passé: Ajoy Chawla

Ajoy Chawla, CEO of Titan's jewellery division, on a rise in demand for high jewellery and delicate pieces in the pandemic, and seeking a patent for the 'Zoya Baoli Setting'

Published: Aug 21, 2021 09:00:00 AM IST
Updated: Aug 21, 2021 10:28:59 AM IST

Minimalistic jewellery is in, heavy and chunky jewellery is passé: Ajoy Chawla

Despite the lockdown, Zoya, the luxury jewellery brand from Titan Jewellery, from the house of Tata, saw a growth of 15 percent year on year in 2020-2021. In the first quarter of 2021-2022 the brand grew by 354 percent as compared to the same time last year during the lockdown.

In 2020, the company also opened five new Zoya galleries (a store-in-store set-up inside Tanishq stores) in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Chandigarh and entered the South India market with a stand-alone Zoya store in Bengaluru. This year, they will also soon open stores in Gurgaon and Hyderabad as well as another five to six galleries in different locations across India.

Zoya will also strengthen its digital footprint as online sales have been one of the biggest contributing factors to the brand’s increase in sales and reach to smaller cities. Ajoy Chawla, CEO of Titan’s jewellery division, says that Zoya’s well-travelled customers, who buy jewellery as a way of self-expression, have all adopted online buying and are now looking for timeless, versatile jewellery. While there are Zoya collections inspired by Egypt, Greece, Paris and ’20s Hollywood heroines, its most recent, Samāvé by Zoya, is inspired by India’s architectural heritage, the baolis or stepwells.

Zoya, one of the four brands under Titan Jewellery that also includes Tanishq, Mia, and CaratLane, is largely targeted at HNIs and UHNIs. Its growth in the pandemic is an indicator of Indian consumers’ growing aspirations to own luxury, even in smaller cities, as well as embracing online buying even for high valued goods such as luxury jewellery.

In conversation with Forbes India, Chawla talks about the changed consumer behaviour in the pandemic, top luxury jewellery trends and expansion plans.

Zoya has seen a 15 percent growth even amidst a pandemic and lockdown. What do you think has driven this growth?

This year, jewellery got a larger wallet share from our target audience. As international travel was and is still restricted and other indulgences such as eating out, hosting bigger weddings or parties, are also restricted, jewellery, an asset that appreciates over time, got more attention.

Also, while one section of society became more conservative in its spending habits during the pandemic, another section, the HNIs and UHNIs, largely unaffected by the economic effects of the pandemic, decided to live in the now, the present, as the future still looks uncertain.

At Zoya, throughout the lockdown, we launched campaigns that focused on the theme of ‘Making your everyday meaningful’ and promoting jewellery for self-expression and celebrating personal milestones, which are the brand’s core principles. Digital campaigns like Soul Lines and My Song invited women to reconnect with their true selves by embracing their individuality. This idea of celebrating yourself, celebrating both your triumphs and trials, however small and beautiful, is something that has found great resonance with our audiences.

Zoya’s sales process is highly personalised, and we constantly endeavour to recreate the exclusivity and responsiveness of the offline experience on our online platforms. We initiated a virtually assisted selling programme in the lockdown, which has become a way of life now. On video calls, we conduct walkthrough sessions of the store and the jewellery advisors also help consumers with virtual try-ons. We also sent products to a customer’s home for try-outs.

Digital sales have also made luxury brands such as ours more accessible to consumers from smaller cities and towns, which also helped increase Zoya’s reach and customer base.

Has there been any change in jewellery preferences over the last year? How has the pandemic affected consumer behaviour when it comes to jewellery?

The biggest change we have witnessed is the trend of minimalism. Most of us have had minimal social contact for a long time. As a result of which social gatherings, parties and weddings have become more intimate. Heavy and chunky jewellery is now considered passé by most consumers. They prefer delicate and versatile jewellery that can be worn on multiple occasions.

Also, people living in smaller cities are becoming increasingly aspirational about owning luxury items and in this I see a huge opportunity for pre-owned luxury goods. Thanks to these buyers, various platforms selling luxury products on digital platforms are becoming increasingly popular. While authenticity and legacy have always been the two prime factors influencing luxury, one very crucial aspect that has emerged in the recent years and will only grow stronger is ‘sustainability and ethics’a governing metric influencing purchase decisions, especially of millennials.

What are the top trends in luxury jewellery?

Wearable pieces that can be styled in different ways, timeless statement pieces that are exceptionally crafted and the use of coloured gemstones in interesting combinations and experimental cuts.

Sustainability is also an important trend, which will only grow in the future. In the luxury segment, it will change the way we connect with our customers and the way they shop with us. People will want to know how harmful a product is to the environment. While in India sustainable mining and responsible sourcing is not yet a trend, global trends will influence us at some point.

What, according to you, sets Zoya apart from other brands? What are your expansion plans for the brand?

Zoya is committed to investing in design innovation, excellence in craftsmanship and creating a legacy of works of art that bring together global sensibilities, and redefine the way in which fine jewellery is presented in India and globally.

Last year, Zoya opened galleries in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Chandigarh and entered the South India market with a store in Bengaluru. We will soon have Zoya stores in Gurgaon and Hyderabad and will open five to six more galleries across India this financial year.

Minimalistic jewellery is in, heavy and chunky jewellery is passé: Ajoy Chawla

What was the idea behind using stepwells as inspiration for the new collection Samāvé?

Zoya’s new autograph collection Samāvé celebrates different facets of a woman as she journeys through life. In ancient times, the stepwells or baolis served as catalysts for women to come together and create meaningful bonds. With Samāvé, we wanted to create something unforgettable that reflected this powerful sentiment, especially in today’s day and age.

The ‘Zoya Baoli Setting’ is a first-of-its-kind worldwide, and it will be used in many future collections, which we hope will evolve into a brand identifier in the coming years. It is an innovative setting for which we have a design registration. We have also sought patent rights for the setting.

In the setting, stones are cut with precision to tease out their lustre. They are then placed at an unusual incline to match the geometry of the outer square, while balancing the inequities of natural stones. The angle and placement of the baguettes in an unending loop gives rise to a continuous stream of light, structurally designed to create a play of light and shadows.

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