RB Diamond Jewellers
--BY AASHIYANA ADHIKARI
In 1988, a man from Nepal went to Hong Kong hoping to earn a living for his young family. But through sheer coincidence the place where he ended up working in was a diamond and gems wholesaling company. Life then took a decisive turn and with a series of serendipitous choices, hard work and dedication he became the pioneer of the diamond trade in Nepal.
Ramesh Maharjan, Chairman of RB Diamond Jewellers started from scratch to get to where he is at now.
Born in 1964 to a traditional farming family, he quickly found his interest lay outside of agriculture. Maharjan remembers that even at an early age he always had a head for business and wanted to do something on his own."I was not fond of studying but I realised that if I didn’t then I would have to work in the fields. So, in order to avoid this fate I studied," says Maharjan. He completed his Intermediate in Arts (IA) from Patan Multiple Campus.
Father of two daughters and a son, Maharjan married his school sweetheart in 1982 at the young age of 18. "Back then people used to marry early. So, I did too," he recalls.
After the birth of their first child, Maharjan and his wife started living separately from his extended family. "Before my marriage, my parents and brothers were very supportive but they did not support me in various aspects after marriage," he says. "So, we decided to live on our own." He recalls facing severe financial burdens afterwards. "I was failing at everything I did, nothing was working out the way that I had planned," he says. "My father-in-law and brother-in-laws were working in Hong Kong. They noticed my situation and then they insisted that I work with them."
Maharjan then went to Hong Kong as an office assistant and domestic helper. Life was not easy for him there as he dealt with separation anxiety from his wife during the first few years. "In order to cope with my home sickness, I worked for 18 hours straight," he recalls. His hard work and dedication was noticed by the company. Gradually he was treated as a family member rather than an office employee.
"After a few years working for the company, I really got interested in the diamond business. I was fascinated by the craftsmanship," he says, adding, "I asked them to train me in the diamond business and they agreed without hesitation." Maharjan was sent by the company to Mumbai to train in diamond grading and pricing. Focused and dedicated, he trained for 18 hours daily for six months. The hard work paid off as he earned high marks.
"My status completely changed after I came back to Hong Kong. I was recruited into sales," he says. He wanted to come back to Nepal but his company did not want him to leave. They offered him a job at the company’s head office in New York. But Maharjan’s heart belonged to Nepal. He turned down every deal that the company offered him and finally returned to Nepal.
In 1995, Maharjan surveyed the Nepal jewellery market and was surprised to see that very few people had any real knowledge about the pricing of gold, diamond, silver and other gemstones. A year later, he studied the market in-depth and with the insight started his business. Maharjan officially started his company selling loose diamonds in 1997. As he gained the trust of the market, he started to expand.
"We started making jewellery after gaining a foothold in the market, but there were many challenges during the initial years," he says. "When we started manufacturing, there was no government policy. Diamond imports were in fact banned in our country." Maharjan along with some few other jewellery houses pressured the government and struggled a lot to put proper policies in place in the country’s gemstones and jewellery trade.
Maharjan believes competition is the source of growth for any company and says that he enjoys the competition in the market as it has always inspired him to grow further."With the growing market, jewellery designs are changing significantly," Maharjan says. While some companies are running after quantity, Maharjan says that the strength of his company lies in its adherence to quality.
Currently the president of the Federation of Nepal Gold Silver Gems and Jewellery Association, Maharjan has faced many challenges on his path to success. "Even after the introduction of the rules and regulations, there are still so many challenges that the jewellery houses are facing," he states. "Lack of skilled manpower is one of the biggest problems for the industry at present." According to him, the cap in the Nepali market with jewelers limited to only 15 kilos of gold is not sufficient for the growth of the domestic jewellery market.
"The government needs to address these issues in order to facilitate the jewellers," he stresses. Nepali jewellery has traditional and religious significance, different designs represents different cultures."Although we have great potential to export our products internationally, we have not been able to globalise our products," he adds.
To produce skilled manpower in the jewellery sector, RB Diamonds is planning to open an institute. Maharjan also plans to expand his business internationally."In the next five years we see ourselves growing internationally," he says."We have already started to connect with many jewellers abroad as branding partners and plan to amplify it further."