Surat, the entrepreneurial city

By the early 18th century, India was a global diamond trading hub, aided by the Portuguese; colonial masters of diamond mines in Brazil and the Indian port-city of Goa.

The Surat chapter of the diamond story began in 1900 when two enterprising brothers from the Patidar community, Gandabhai Kuberdas Mavjivanwala and Shri Rangeeldas Kuberdas Mavjivanwala started diamond cutting and polishing in Vadi Faliya area of Surat upon their return from South Africa. It took over 50 years for the small tribe to take steps towards becoming a large scale industry.

The second world war further aided in Surat’s development. Govind Dholakia, Founder & Chairman at SRK Exports, explains. “Before 1940, the business of diamond cutting and polishing was in Yangon, Myanmar (known as Rangoon, Burma). The Japanese invasion of Myanmar caused diamond artisans to return to their hometown, Surat-Navsari, Gujarat, India.” According to Dholakia, merchants sending rough diamonds to Rangoon shifted to Surat. The Zari industry was already flourishing under the leadership of the Patel community. Their entrepreneurial instinct resulted in their involvement in diamond cutting and polishing.

Well-trained and skilled employees are vital to the progress and expansion of any industry. Till the mid-eighties, India was a processing centre for low to medium-value natural diamonds, with the higher quality goods cut in Israel or Belgium. Venus Jewel’s founder, Sevantibhai Shah, decided to up-skill Indian diamond cutters and created a large-scale, world-class manufacturing environment for high-value natural diamonds in Surat, rewriting the rules of the game.