Mumbai's popular daily newspaper DNA recently profiled Pranay Mehta, the fourth generation to head the family jewellery business Thakorlal Hiralal. Pranay is the son of late Neeraben and late Satishbhai Jayantilal Mehta.
We reproduce the article for our readers
Bollywood is not aspirational for my client: Pranay Mehta
Sunday, 12 July 2015
by Manish Mishra
Diamantaire Pranay Mehta on his passion for haute jewellery, theatre and travel...
There’s much more to Pranay Mehta — a fourth generation diamantaire of Thakorlal Hiralal than the exquisitely crafted heirloom pieces. He’s as passionate about acting and theatre as he’s about the craft of haute joaillerie. Clad in a business suit and with a let’s-not-waste-time approach, he throws you off guard when he shares that he acted in various plays in college in the hallowed precincts of NCPA and Prithvi Theatre, Cause Célèbre being one of the them which — ran for two years. “In those days, theatre wasn’t considered lucrative,” he laughs.
For generations now, Thakorlal Hiralal has created some of the country’s finest jewellery. Now, operating from Mumbai, with its origins in Kolkata more than 80 years ago, the company caters to the most discerning of Indian elite families.
Jewellery in my blood
“It runs within my blood from a very early age. My grandfather was my ultimate inspiration who shared fantastic relationships with clients from Kolkata, some of whom are now in Mumbai and Delhi. I had this natural drive to take those relationships forward,” says he getting a tad emotional.
However, Pranay like his granddad is far from being a purely trading person since he’s thoroughly involved with the creativity that goes into each piece. “Even today when I talk about him, it’s with a lot of emotion. He made my parent’s wedding jewellery.”
As a child, Pranay saw some of the most iconic museum-worthy jewels which shaped him up as an individual and fuelled his creative prowess.
He recalls, “Some of the jewels of the Baroda royal family were sold through my granddad — the emeralds were the size of pigeon eggs. It was post-Independence era when Indian royals were in need of funds. An exquisite waistband worn by the Maharaja of Bharatpur comes to mind, which was of 45-50 inch waist and each Golconda diamond was of 15-20 carats — that was pretty spectacular. India has a rich and varied history and culture of jewellery wearing — both men and women enjoyed jewellery.”
Labels I admire
“I’m currently loving Graff for the sheer factor and size and Harry Winston for their designs. Ambaji Venkatesh Shinde, who was HW’s main designer, worked with my uncle before he went to join the international label. His designs are timeless and exciting to see, even today. I like Adler, too, for their fabulous modern jewellery. Today, I see a trend of everybody going towards solid statement pieces because by far, the privately owned jewellery becomes heirloom.”
Commerce vs creative
“Since I handle both the business and creative roles, I see that as an advantage because I can be realistic about my creativity. Clients come to me for advice -— do you think this is a good time to invest in diamonds or right scenario for investing in emeralds or Basra pearls. I have the pulse of the market and it works to my advantage and also my client’s. It’s a very natural balance. Also, when I started working in the Mumbai office — mom used to be the creative force and father used to handle the commercial part — having seen both of them work in the same office gave me a better perspective of how to handle both the aspects.”
Luxury retail in India
“The Indian audience has evolved tremendously. Everyone is looking for something different. The palate for investing jewellery has increased — 15 years ago, people wouldn’t invest in rubies and emeralds. Today, with rarity of these stones — people are open to putting money in emeralds. Earlier, only diamonds were considered investments. We’ve just done a Zambian uncut emerald line because we see people are open to buying and wearing things.”
“I think from the customer’s point of view. I never drive my sales with any intention other than giving the client what they want. We’re very meticulous with our stone sourcing, we manufacture our own jewellery. We have a superior level of craftsmanship and every piece is treated as a well-finished product. I will never deliver anything to the client that doesn’t make me 100 per cent happy. There have been instances when I have thrown the mould out the window in front of my factory guys and asked them to start from scratch.”
“My brand philosophy is to whisper, not shout. Bollywood is too in-your-face and my buying market comprises of more serious collectors and business families. In fact, they might cringe at the thought of being associated with an actress. Bollywood is a driver of trends no doubt, but in terms of jewellery, less so. It isn’t aspirational for my client.”
“I visit trade shows in Hong Kong, Basel and Vegas. I try to go to as many auctions as possible as it keeps you in touch with — both commercial and creative worlds. It’s important to travel because your client is a world traveller. Today, I see a lot of interest in emeralds and Basra pearls.”
Work life balance
“I love to travel. Acting has always been a passion and hobby. My major in college were economic and theatre. Now, I don’t have time to pursue it. Also, I won’t like to do it half-heartedly. At some point, I’d get back to it in some form. My wife and I love to travel. One thing I’d never trade with anything else is my downtime with my two little girls on Sunday. That’s my one day off. Music is also a big passion — be it EDM or Indian classical. My current fav is Niladri Kumar and Zakir Husain, who played at my wedding.”
“It’s one of those downside of the trade, it’s easy to copy somebody’s designs. That’s why we are not out there in media. A friend of mine who does her own jewellery line told me that one of her clients came with my jewellery ad and asked her to copy it. She told her, ‘I am sorry, he’s a good friend, I can’t do it’. I think the less we encourage it, the less it’ll happen. Clients come to us with designs from brands like Graff from the Internet. Copying is happening all over the world.”
Note: In the original article that appeared in DNA, Pranay's grandfather Jayantibhai Mehta was erroneously referred to as "late". We had reproduced the original version with the same mistake, but have subsequently rectified it. The error is regretted.
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