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Bhima Jewellers: Shining Bright Since 1925

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Sandeep Kumar
Sandeep Kumar
A multimedia journalist with over eleven years of experience in print and digital media, Sandeep Kumar is assistant editor with Images Group. Books, retail, sports and cinema are an inextricable part of his life.

From Augmented Reality and virtual try-ons, 99-year-old Kerala-based Bhima Jewellers has moulded itself to stay relevant to today’s digital-savvy customers

New Delhi: The 1925-founded Bhima Jewellers is credited with bringing a paradigm shift—from made-to-order to readymade jewellery—in Kerala’s jewellery trade. The 99-year-old brand, which will soon be celebrating its centenary has been at the forefront of delivering quality, exquisite designs, and a customer-centric approach.

Started by Bhima Bhattar (K. Lakshminarayana Bhattar), the first store at Alleppey still holds the position of being the first to offer ready-made gold jewellery in Kerala. With over 60 stores across five states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana as well as four stores in UAE, the brand currently holds an industry-leading Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 96.

Bhima Jewellers, with an average store size of 8,000 sq. ft., has expanded its presence into the realm of e-commerce, partnering with platforms such as Amazon, Ajio, and Myntra. The brand’s current emphasis is on expanding its online operations and achieving scalability.

Notably, the brand has appointed actor Sobhita Dhulipala as its brand ambassador to enhance its marketing efforts.

Gopa Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, of Bhima Jewellers talks about strategic priorities, key growth drivers, its vision for the future and much more. Edited excerpts:

How has the response been online?

Online traffic has grown, but we continue to be a major player in the offline space as well. We have large stores, which are popular and get good footfall and business. For online, we are making calculated moves by being with marketplaces and learning the ropes. We recently ventured online and have a modest presence—online accounts for approximately 2-3% of our overall sales.

Typically, maximum sales online are of bullion and coins, which are not high margins. For significant online growth, we want to sell more jewellery and assortments, which we will achieve in time. But the response and traffic we have been witnessing online is phenomenal.

How do you use technology?

Turning stores into digital has been one of the most successful initiatives for the brand. Digital stores ensure that consumers get a seamless experience across the shopping journey. We have added virtual try-ons as well at the stores, and that has done well for us with Augmented Reality (AR).

This innovative feature of mirrAR—where AR stands for Augmented Reality—is present in all new stores in Hyderabad and those undergoing renovation. Customers can explore and try out thousands of designs, facilitating a shortlisting process. Additionally, they can share their selections with friends and family via WhatsApp.

We implement the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system, a digital feedback mechanism akin to that adopted by airline and hotel industries. This technology allows us to closely monitor and gauge our consumers’ satisfaction levels.

The stores are converted into technology-enabled retail theatres— going beyond selling commodities and collections to offer experiences. Moreover, we have implemented a state-of-the-art enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. A few months ago, we integrated Microsoft Dynamics 365 into our operations, streamlining various aspects such as learning, assortment planning, business intelligence, and billings. It possesses the capability to establish a loyalty programme in case we choose to have one in the future.

How do you enhance customer experience?

While we haven’t ventured into traditional loyalty programs involving points, our focus on loyalty revolves around a single metric—the NPS. Currently, we boast an industry-leading NPS score of 96. This score is obtained by reaching out to consumers after their purchase. Once they go home, they receive a message prompting them to rate their experience on a scale from zero to 10, and our 96% score attests to the high level of satisfaction among our customers.

Bhima Jewellers: Shining Bright Since 1925
Bhima Jewellers: Shining Bright Since 1925

We actively collect feedback from consumers, addressing concerns related to pricing, service, and other aspects. It goes beyond loyalty programs, delving into one-on-one consumer response. With a robust backend and CRM system in place, we efficiently tabulate these queries. Moreover, the system flags potential red flags, allowing us to address any concerns that arise and ensure the satisfaction of our consumers.

Then we have personal shopper services that cater to consumers seeking assistance in purchasing high-profile products or those in need of guidance in selecting specific types of jewellery or with curated ensembles.

Our highly trained personal shoppers with advanced training operate at a level above our already well-trained staff. They work by appointment, providing individualised attention to each consumer. The utilisation of a personal shopper gives us a threefold increase in returns compared to the purchases made by regular shoppers in our store.

Can you elaborate on your customisation service?

Our stores offer basic customisation services, allowing customers to work with our goldsmiths for additions or removals based on their preferences. Consumers seeking high-proȱ le, customized products can visit our ȷ flagship store in Somajiguda, Hyderabad, where we have a new customisation concept called Bhima Prive.

This exclusive space is equipped with designers and stylists who can collaboratively create personalized sketches according to individual consumer preferences. The crafted product is then delivered to consumers. While high-end customisation is still in its early stages for us, it’s a facet we’re actively developing and refining.

What are your expansion plans?

We currently have 60 plus stores, mainly in south India. We also have four stores in Dubai. We expect to launch approximately 10 to 12 stores in 2024.

As of now, we have got into Telangana with four stores. Four more are in the pipeline, each representing an investment, ranging between `80 to `100 crores. We want to focus on the region, invest in it exploit it to its full potential and then look at the next state.

Also, I think there is a lot of value in tier 2 and 3 cities, along with the smaller cities. These locations give us a lot of Return on Investment (ROI) and stability, so these cities are definitely on the cards in terms of our expansion plans.

How do you select store locations?

Before establishing a new location, Bhima conducts thorough market studies in collaboration with our business development and project teams. These studies encompass a comprehensive analysis of consumer demographics, local population dynamics, and an evaluation of existing jewellery businesses in the area, including their performance.

If our research indicates that a particular location is poised to bring positive results within a year, we proceed with it.

Which market is witnessing high demand right now?

In terms of gold, Kerala continues to be high in consumption and so does Karnataka. However, we recognise a significant cant market potential in Hyderabad.

We have already opened four stores in the city with plans for an additional four stores slated to open in the coming year, each of these representing an investment, ranging between 80 to 100 crores.

Any new categories you want to enter?

We are currently focused on jewellery. The young customers are more into metals (preferably lightweight metals) as gold is costly. We are working on getting that out in our new collections.

Besides jewellery, we have precious stones, studded jewellery, diamonds, and platinum collections as well but we are not looking for any other retail category as such.

What is the business outlook for the fiscal year 2024?

We are growing at double digits over the market growth rate. As the market normalises post-pandemic, our growth trajectory remains strong, particularly in our ȷ nourishing diamond business. Since the pandemic, we have witnessed continuous growth in the jewellery segment. We’re expanding into other states, setting up large format stores, introducing new collections and sharpening our e-commerce play.

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