Amish Shah, President of ALTR Created Diamonds, is the undisputed creator of the lab grown diamond marketplace. After gaining experience, through his family business, in the diamond industry and in fine jewelry at an early age, he joined R & R Grosbard Inc. in New York in 2001 and helped transform it into an international powerhouse.
Ten years later, Amish took over its operations and led a merger with his family business, conceiving R A Riam Group Inc. in New York, which includes ALTR Created Diamonds. As the only vertically integrated diamond house growing, manufacturing, designing, and cutting with the world’s finest artisans to create the purest form of diamonds (type-IIa diamonds) known to man.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Amish Shah: When you talk about the diamond industry, I was born into it. I’m a third-generation jeweler and my family has been in the business of diamonds and fine jewelry from India since 1933. After nearly 90 years in the business, I get to be the generation that’s taking the history of diamonds and marrying it with the future and fusing it with technology, which is one of the major passions of my life.
After gaining experience, through my family business in the diamond industry and in fine jewelry at an early age, I joined R & R Grosbard Inc. in New York in 2001 where I took over its operations and led a merger with my family business and started ALTR Created Diamonds (www.altr.nyc). As the only vertically integrated diamond enterprise that provides a true end-to-end product, it creates the purest form of diamonds (type-IIa diamonds) known to man.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Amish Shah: COVID had a big learning curve for businesses in every industry. It started quite rough for the luxury segment but ended up being a boon for it in the end. When you think about almost every luxury product, whether they are bags, jewelry, or otherwise they found success.
Of course, certain accessories that weren’t used every day did take a big hit, but at the end of the day the revenge shopping that happened 12 months post Covid in 2021 paid off multiple times over. The lessons companies should have learned over the last 24 months are to ensure that they are synced with their consumers and making sure their business is stable.
A significant element we saw during Covid that is seldom discussed are companies with a long-term vision who took care of their employees. When you look at the IP of any company, the employees are one of if not the most important IP. So, during COVID we made the decision as a group to hold onto our employees even during the roughest patch of the pandemic. This lesson was driven home further after seeing companies that let go of their people and didn’t take care of them are now struggling. Another major lesson has been to understand your consumer.
The consumer today, if you look at pre and post Covid is a much more responsible consumer. This trend has been steadily increasing over the last five years, however in the last 24 months there has been a substantial surge towards being socially, environmentally, and economically responsible. So, brands and companies must align themselves to the values of their consumer if they want to not only retain them but also grow their confidence.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Amish Shah: COVID taught us social values. We were racing to work and doing so many things that took us far from our families and loved ones. Covid raised the value of relationships in life, and motivated people to spend more time with loved ones when it used to only be an afterthought.
This shift of social behavior is very important for companies and brands as they work on their communication and marketing. The environmental values go for the consumer today goes without saying. I don’t know of any consumer that is not conscious about the experiences and the products they consume. Whether it is a plastic bag or what they eat, drink, or wear. Hence, it is important to be a part of that movement.
When we talk about economical responsibility, the last six months with inflation, and economic instability, necessities have become far more important than luxury. So, many products that could be held from overstretched budgets, are feeling the pinch. This means companies must align their product and pricing models to ensure that they connect with the economically responsible consumer too.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Amish Shah: The beginning of the pandemic was particularly tough. As everybody was stranded at home, our industry not only got scared but were unaware of what the future would hold. As someone who looks beyond the immediate, looking back at history and studying the influenza epidemic of 1918, jewelry was one of the first categories to have the biggest boost when the economy started to come back. This happened because diamonds and jewelry represent love and affection. We learned to revert to our loved ones during the toughest times. This is the same thing that happened after the first Covid wave.
As things calmed down and the stimulus entered the system while most people were working from home without the ability to travel or other additional expenses, the disposable income of the consumer gravitated towards beautiful fine jewelry. The fine jewelry market increased by almost 40% from the previous year before the pandemic. Every jeweler rode this wave and not only covered what they had lost in the first phase, but also increased their business overall.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Amish Shah: As we know, anything that goes up must come down. In the beginning of 2022, we started to see the effects of the slow down even though 2.5 million couples are expected to get engaged this year. Those numbers have been delayed however and we will truly see this boost over the next year because nobody was really going out in the last year. The people who started going out late last year are not going to propose in six months. It generally takes 12 to 18 months. So, I believe the true engagement rush will be between 2023 and 2024.
This year, with inflation, the value of necessities as a part of the normal household expenses are taking precedence and hence jewelry in the midsegment is going to see a slowdown, which has already been seen month over month in the last two to three months. The lesson to be learned from this is if you stay connected and understand your consumer while you ride the wave up, you can smoothen the ride when the wave calms down.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Amish Shah: I believe that online shopping for the fine jewelry industry, over a certain price point, will calm down. It will even return to somewhere between the pre pandemic levels and the peak. The increase in the importance of social interaction has directly driven this. We saw that this year with revenge travel as the number of people traveling around the world and crossing boarders has dramatically increased for personal vacations.
A purchase of fine jewelry is not just a regular purchase, but an experience. This experience in stores can never be replaced by a click of the mouse. Especially when it is an engagement purchase, which I label as an experience of the expression of love. Nothing can replace it. I am sure that buying jewelry gifts under a certain price point from known brands will have its steady growth, because when you know a brand, and believe that you know it’s authentic, you will buy gifts with that click. Which will lead to a balance as time passes.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Amish Shah: At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I spent between 8 to 10 hours a day on Zoom. That was reduced to roughly 6 hours in 2021 and down to only about 2 hours a day in 2022. It is important to note that as we have multiple global offices, 2 hours a day for video conferencing has been a norm for me for over 15 years.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Amish Shah: The stories I use to help effectively communicate with our team personal comes from within the company across all our offices. They are stories that motivate, energize, or make people feel good about what they do and where they are. Those are the ones that have help keep such a strong team united.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Amish Shah: The real challenge right now is finding the right people to build the organization further that not only have talent, but also the right culture to fit into the organization. That is the number one challenge because if you have like-minded employees with determination to win, everything else is a result.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Amish Shah: In 2022 my focus is to learn how to communicate better with my teams and improve my managerial skills. In addition to these, the most important thing to learn is how to improve our brand communication with the consumers.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Amish Shah: A major issue is that a lot of leaders just will not read all the data. When we talk about the great resignation, it depends on who you are looking at. In a recent report, it was found that of the people who switched companies during the pandemic, regret the move. So much so, that leaders are being told if ex-employees request to return, that they should work with them to seamlessly bring them back into the fold. America specifically saw employees being affected by a variety of issues.
They were bored at their jobs, they did not see advancement opportunities, and they started to see higher payments from the stimulus to stay at home rather than go to their job. This is what made them not only more comfortable leaving, but also gave them more confidence to do so. Companies that understood this and worked with their employees closely and offered things like work from home, and more flexibility towards their needs and the needs of their families saw growth in their employees.
Instead of focusing on how companies lose employees, they should focus on how to retain and grow their employees. The culture in companies like us is not being prideful of having a movement of people, and high talent, but how long your team members have been with you not only in one location but in all your offices.
The Great Resignation can be seen in various ways depending on the type of company and employer you are. It certainly taught employees and employers what the next generation of office environments will look like and opened up their vulnerabilities. Every business and entrepreneur needs to draw from that and see what applies best for their business.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Amish Shah: If I were to have one business superpower it would be to have the ability to always make the people who work with me and the people who we work for happy.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Amish Shah: Success in 2022 is all about preparing the company and our teams for the transition into the next generation of the industry. The created diamond industry as a whole is transitioning into the future, and as the pioneers behind the category, it is time for the conversation to go through a major change. And we need to be prepared for that.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Amish Shah for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Amish Shah or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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