Where are we going?

In 2008, Australia was accepted into the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and it was my first introduction to an organization which covered the globe. Over the last eight years I have developed wonderful friendships and experienced things that few would ever get the opportunity to do so in a lifetime.

At a recent Presidents meeting in Mumbai India I presented a document posing this exact question in my role as chairman of the promotion committee.

It’s easy to ask the question, it becomes much harder to answer it. More to the point it is a truly multinational organization where its members have  different needs and wants, and no doubt some conflicting.

We have currently a diamond industry which is disproportionately weighted by the clout of one country, India. It is no secret that 15 to 20 Indian diamond families hold in excess of 50% of the world polished diamond stocks. If you go one step back up the chain there are in essence four mining entities which hold the majority of the rough.

When we look towards Antwerp we see what was once the very epicenter of the diamond industry in an extreme quandary (which is also seen to varying degrees in other previously major diamond center’s). So many have left the trade, there is an ageing population and from the feedback that I get, there are less than 25% of diamond families who are actively positioning the next generation to take over. Antwerp (which has a great story to sell) the city with 500 years of diamond history has been marginalized as a diamond powerhouse.

Worldwide, diamond clubs and jewellery associations struggle to grow their membership because few have researched what their current and potential members want. Just because we provide Information on the trade which is fed daily via news feeds, and rewritten in a newsletter, our member find this as a given, not special or a unique benefit. Some of the larger associations, such as the JAA produce magazines and have taken the brave step of running their own tradeshow. For this they need to be commended, as they are taking on a highly experienced player, but are legitimately showing the industry that we can be masters of our own destiny, and are entitled to change. It is for this reason that the DDCA has worked with the JAA to create a diamond pavilion at the upcoming jewellery show.

Many of you reading this article may have been the recipient of a market research project which the Diamond Dealers Club of Australia recently put out to the trade. The feedback made it clear that what we do as the DDCA, and how we do it, is poorly explained in the Australian marketplace .Interesting feedback was that over 70% of respondents did want to be part of something bigger, and the idea of being part of an internationally recognized organization was of great interest.

Additional feedback has led  the DDCA to be holding a number think tank meetings with key players to look to bring to the diamond and Jewellery  industry  a number of services which the JAA as a generalist industry body may not. It is important to point out that we don’t see ourselves in competition to the JAA but complimentary, as our focus is specifically on diamonds, in terms of wholesale and retail.

At the meeting in Mumbai I  posed a very contentious question as to why the WFDB has no exclusive diamond trading platform.

Just because we haven’t created one historically what stops us doing so now? We have abstained from creating or being involved with an industry standard price guides, why? for fear of price fixing or unfair influence? An industry price guide and trading platform could be audited by a leading accounting firm and we could create a truly  arm’s length environment if we wanted too . Today our industry is at the mercy of one entity, not a healthy position to be in when there is clearly no transparency.

The World Diamond Mark a marketing initiative by the world Federation Diamond bourses has had a degree of success at a recent meeting in Mumbai the Diamond Promotion Association led by DeBeers and Alrosa formally approached the WFDB to look to see how we can work together. This is a huge credit to the team of the WDM and in particular Alex Popov its chairman who has worked tirelessly to build and grow the generic marketing platform which is focused on communicating with the consumer.

Should the above be accomplished successfully it will show the influence that the WFDB can have all the way down the pipeline. That being said, should the DPA not understand the message that the WDM is attempting to express, we can be in danger of abrogating our voice to another entity, which may or may not have a different agenda. As much as we all wish to sell more diamonds, we need to appreciate that there are multiple conversations and segments within a market that need to be addressed. Variety and dissension is not always a bad thing.

A year ago I personally assisted in finding a suitable candidate to be the CEO of the WFDB.We successfully retained the services of Louise Prior who was previously head of communications for DeBeers for many years. Louise developed A key organizational blueprint which is built on the following pillars .

  1. To be the “go to” voice of the industry
  2. To be the authoritative trade organisation in the diamond industry
  3. To increase membership (bourse, associate and nation affiliated)
  4. To work with members to grow profit
  5. Develop and engage with producers, banks, government and NGO’S
  6. To uphold industry standards, arbitration reputation and ethics

I personally expressed  the opinion  that we as an international  body did not execute the necessary Market research which  is critical in my opinion and hence  missed an important step. What do our members want and need?

So where to next?

How do we become super relevant so every person who deals with diamonds recognizes the WFDB OR t least on a local level the DDCA.

Why is it critical to join a diamond club or bourse, if diamonds are your primary source of income?

In today’s marketplace the sheer volume of information is overwhelming, and to be able to access a specialist industry resource is essential. The days where you can live in a bubble are over. In Australia for so long ,so few have wanted to share information for fear it would take away from their own piece of the pie, my belief is ,stop worrying about the guy up the road you need to think of how you will compete with the multinationals and the brands which are only getting stronger and stronger. The small diamond retailer must appreciate that  your marketing dollar can go only so far, but should one choose to be part of a larger entity, one can enjoy and benefit through the sharing and collaboration of ideas and resources.

Historically I see the trade as largely reactive. The industry has gone (and continues to go) through incredible financial hardships where massive fortunes have evaporated or been diluted and where access to finance has become increasingly limited.

I challenge us all to confront some of the issues I have raised. The changes occurring in the legal and digital world are moving at a pace that none of us can keep up with, believe me when I say WORKING TOGETHER  to better understand them and the impact they will have on our and our children’s livelihoods, will giving us all the best fighting chance we have.

The DDCA is committed to work with the industry  and come to terms with these changes to provide the necessary support and leadership to navigate forward.

I welcome any and all who are interested to contact me, so that together we can build a bright future.

Trade well.

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