Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted the Indian diamond industry to aim at becoming an international trading centre and “preferred destination for manufacturing” rather than only a cutting and polishing hub.

Our aim is to make India a preferred destination for (diamond) manufacturing. We are already a cutting and polishing hub. My intention is to make India an international diamond trading hub,” Modi said, addressing golden jubilee celebration of Gem Jewellery Export Promotion Council in Mumbai through video-conference.

India has made rapid strides to become the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of cut and polished diamonds, the PM noted. “From just US $28 million in 1966-67, the Indian diamond industry has now reached US $40 billion. Our aim is to transform India in one generation… Our aim is to make India a preferred destination for manufacturing,” he said.

In the past 50 years, the Prime Minister said, the gems and jewellery sector has accounted for US $475 billion of exports despite not having domestic production of either gold or diamond. By giving employment to over 4.6 million people, the industry is a major contributor to the government’s skill India initiative, Modi said.

Skill India initiative seeks to make sure that new attempts are made to ensure that the workforce has the necessary skills to contribute to the economy of the 21st century. The gems and jewellery sector employs 4.6 million people, out of this, 1 million are in the diamond industry alone. Thus the gems and jewellery sector is a prime example of the potential of Make-in-India and Skill India,” Modi said.

The Indian diamond industry has come a long way from where it was. However, it is still far, far behind where it should be. Our strongest area is diamond cutting and polishing. In terms of the global value, our market share is much lower than it should be. Our future is much bigger than cutting and polishing. We have a lot of unexplored potential,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the Indian diamond industry needs to understand its market and work towards becoming a leader globally. “Indian exports are importer-led. The specification and designs are based on the specifications given by importers. This means that India is a follower of global fashion rather than a leader of global taste. This does not do justice to our rich experience and designs. To influence the global taste, our manufacturers need to have a thorough knowledge of the market. The industry needs to collectively study and understand the end user and what they want,” he said.

E-commerce makes it easier to establish direct contact with end-users. This is a golden opportunity for our industry as it can think of encouraging its start-ups by young entrepreneurs who can create a growing market from made-to order gems and jewellery,” Modi said.

Assuring complete support to the industry regarding its grievances, the Prime Minister said, “My government will certainly consider any plan if the industry gives specific and practical suggestions which are in the interest of the country.

About extending support to African countries, Modi said, “India has excellent relations with Africa. Our post-colonial heritage and the similarity of the challenges we faced make us natural partners. I take this opportunity to assure my friends in Africa that India will be happy to support them in developing their (diamond) sector and in making them efficient.