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Moving Jewelry Sales Online in India

BANGALORE, India — When Sushma Sonty wanted to buy herself some jewelry for her birthday, she didn’t head to a traditional jeweler, as is the custom in India, or even to a local store. Instead, she turned to Melorra, a new website that marries Western fast-fashion trends with wearable fine jewelry.

“It was the first time I was buying semiprecious jewelry online, and I took a risk,” said Ms. Sonty, 32, a human resources manager. “But it exceeded my expectations.”

She bought a pair of 18-karat rose-gold earrings for the equivalent of about $200, not an insignificant sum in a country where the average online monthly spend is about 9,400 rupees, or $140. “Melorra’s designs are international and sophisticated, like something someone in London or New York would wear,” Ms. Sonty said, adding, “You don’t see these designs in Indian jewelry stores.”

Jewelry is an integral part of Indian culture, but most makers here design for big occasions, producing traditional pieces with significant price tags based on gold and gemstone weights. That focus has continued even though the nation is modernizing at a rapid clip, and so are women’s wardrobes, with urban Indian women preferring Western ready-to-wear or casual Indian wear as their daily attire. Ornate Indian-style precious jewelry doesn’t suit such clothes, so many either gravitate toward costume jewelry or do without jewelry altogether.

“Young women today are not like their grandmothers sitting at home, wearing a lot of traditional jewelry,” said Saroja Yeramilli, Melorra’s founder, in an interview at the company offices in Bangalore. “There are now generations of Indian women whose dressing sense has changed, whose lifestyle has changed, whose needs are different, and jewelry is no longer playing a role in their lives except on their wedding day.”

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