Generally, diamond jewellery is acquired by women in India for three main reasons: as an expression of love and celebration of a relationship milestone; as a celebration of a personal milestone; and as an impulse purchase.
More than four in 10 diamond jewellery purchases are made with a ‘Love’ motivation, while a little over one in 10 are for a personal ‘Milestone’ and about a quarter are unplanned ‘Impulse’ acquisitions (see Fig. 22).
Associations of diamonds with love are strong in India, confirmed by the fact that 61 per cent of women strongly agree that diamond jewellery is a symbol of everlasting love.
However, the Indian ‘Love’ acquisition route is unique in the context of other major diamond markets. In the US and China, the bride-to-be typically acquires a solitaire diamond ring on engagement or for the wedding occasion as a symbol of love and long-lasting commitment. Today, in India, more than nine out of 10 marriages are arranged and so do not involve a love match or a proposal in the Western sense. It is noteworthy, however, that among the Elite population the ratio of arranged to love marriages is 50:50.
This means that the pre-marriage ‘Love’ route has a bigger role to play in this consumer segment.
So, for the majority of the affluent Indian population today, diamond jewellery is not positioned as a symbol of romantic love and promise at the beginning of married life. Instead, it is part of the collection of mainly gold jewellery pieces acquired by the bride as a means of receiving family wealth from the older generation. As many as 73 per cent of SEC A/B non-Elite brides and almost all (98 per cent) Elite brides bought some jewellery containing diamonds in 2013 for their wedding-related functions.
The true ‘Love’ acquisition route starts for Indian women after the wedding, mainly through the celebration of wedding anniversaries. This occasion accounted for about a quarter of the women’s diamond jewellery purchases in 2013. Therefore, diamond jewellery retailers in India have the opportunity to align to and grow the ‘Love’ route in their own way by targeting more mature couples with messages of relationships withstanding the test of time.
Some enterprising retailers are already beginning to realise these opportunities by maintaining customer databases with wedding anniversary dates, as well as birthdays, so that they can remind their clients of these important celebrations days in advance and prompt them to buy a piece of diamond jewellery. This builds up not only sales, but also customer loyalty.
While the post-marriage ‘Love’ route is the most common acquisition route for Indian women, the ‘Impulse’ route also represents a sizeable opportunity for Indian jewellers with over one in five pieces (23 per cent) being motivated this way. In the ‘Impulse’ acquisition, women are attracted to a piece of diamond jewellery because of the design, the exceptional value for money or simply because they want a nice treat. All women buy on impulse, but the incidence is higher among the Elites at 26 per cent. As consumer affluence grows, the number of women who purchase diamond jewellery without advance planning is likely to rise. At present, the Elites and Super Elites offer vivid examples of how this happens (see Sindhu’s Journey).
In India, jewellery is a luxury item of high desirability, more so than in other markets where it is often challenged by other luxury products and services. For example, in 2013 fine jewellery ranked fourth on the list of gifts that US women would most like to receive, behind foreign holidays, weekend getaways and electronics. In India, fine jewellery far outweighs other luxury and experiential categories in desirability with 65 per cent of women wishing to buy it for themselves and 47 per cent hoping to receive it as a gift (see Fig. 23).
Desirability of diamonds within the fine jewellery category varies considerably among the different female consumer segments in India. Among the SEC A/B non-Elite segment, gold is the top preference for 56 per cent of women, compared with 23 per cent who preferred diamonds. But among the Elite segment, 75 per cent of women placed diamonds as their first preference in fine jewellery, with only six per cent preferring gold.
So how can retailers make diamonds more attractive to the non-Elite segment? One possible way would be through engaging with the aspirational needs of consumers. The De Beers study showed that 52 per cent of women strongly agree that diamond jewellery is ‘prestigious’. These perceptions are driven to a large extent by the behaviour of the Elites and the Super Elites, behaviour which the less affluent consumers in SEC A/B non-Elites seek to emulate.
The Super Elites themselves seek to achieve a range of social and emotional outcomes through their diamond jewellery, from visibility and recognition of status and achievement to differentiation and Western sophistication (see Fig. 24).
Eight out of 10 Indian women own a piece of fine jewellery, which demonstrates the central importance of jewellery in Indian culture. Many of these pieces are likely to have been gifted by parents to transfer wealth to their children. Today, gold fulfils the role of a store of value, investment, and liquid asset in Indian culture. The De Beers survey showed that half of all married women strongly agree that diamond jewellery is very suitable for a family heirloom. Given that diamonds are such a rare product and symbolise eternity, positioning them as an heirloom to be handed down to the next generation represents an opportunity to carve out a role for diamonds as complementary to, rather than as a replacement for, gold.
There is a strongly held view among Indian consumers that diamonds are a good store of value, with 75 per cent of women in the top socio-economic classes agreeing that they are a good investment.