IIJS 2006: Fewer buyers, more domestic business

The India International Jewellery Show, held in Mumbai on May 4 through May 8, clearly showcased India’s steady emergence as a global jewelry force—as well as its ongoing domestic transition from the traditional to the contemporary.

While the event continued to emphasize traditional Indian jewelry, much of the focus has shifted toward displaying new brands and new lines featuring upscale, modern designs for the surging Indian domestic market and abroad. This was most readily apparent based on several of the show’s signature events:

* A gala fashion show, titled Anokhi Expressions, which actively merged the old and the new in terms of styling.
* The ABN Amro Solitaire Awards, organized by India’s Gem and Jewellery Export Promotional Council, to honor India’s most creative jewelry designers and craftsmen.
* The local unveiling of Gold Expressions, a new collection of contemporary Italian jewelry from the World Gold Council.
 
IIJS 2006 moved from its traditional July dates to avoid the seasonal rains and subsequent flooding that forced the show to close early last year. This year’s show featured 640 exhibitors and 1,500 stalls, including new entrants from Italy, China, France, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Germany, Korea, Poland, Turkey, Belgium, the United States, Thailand, and the Czech Republic. The show drew some 17,000 visitors, considerably less than the 30,000 that were expected. Exhibitors and show organizers attributed the drop in attendance to the date change—along with the fact that May is the traditional time for summer family vacations. Next year, the show will return to its former July schedule.

Exhibitor reaction to the decrease in attendance was mixed. Numerous exhibitors said they were unhappy with the lighter-than-expected turnout, particularly the first few days. Others said the “seriousness” and quality of the buyers in attendance was better than in previous years. Many exhibitors also said they were impressed with security and infrastructure improvements to the show venue this year.

Although IIJS 2006 drew numerous international buyers from the Middle East and Asia, some exhibitors lamented the lack of Western buyers – particularly for a show that is the second largest in Asia (next to the Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair) and billed among the top five largest jewelry shows in the world.

“U.S. buyers would be surprised to find such a major trade show here in India,” said Sanket Kothari, partner of Livingstones, a DTC sightholder and vertically integrated jewelry manufacturer and retailer based in Mumbai. “The show organizers have been trying to do a lot of international publicity. But many of these exhibitors already do a large percentage of their business in the United States and Europe, and the individual companies need to send out their own invitations to get their foreign customers to come here.”