Mumbai's diamond traders are actively mulling a shift in business operations to safer locations in suburban Mumbai or even Ahmedabad (in neighbouring Gujarat), after twin bomb blasts rocked their diamond trading hub – Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar – on Wednesday.

The incident has forced diamond traders to look at the option of moving closer to the small cutting and polishing (C&P) units in Gujarat, Mr Sanjay Shah, a Mumbai-based diamond merchant, said. Besides, it would be more convenient and cheaper for the owners of C&P units in Surat, Navsari and Bhavnagar to reach Ahmedabad, he added. International buyers too would like the hospitality and infrastructure facilities in Gujarat, Mr Shah said.

In fact, the ‘khau galli' near Zaveri Bazaar became popular as the small C&P traders frequented the roadside eateries there, another trader said. Will the diamond trade follow the textile mills that have shifted lock, stock and barrel out of Mumbai, wonder industry watchers?

Mr Harmesh Arora, Director, National India Bullion Refinery, said a significant chunk of the bullion trade has already moved to Gujarat, even as a small portion still remains in Mumbai. “We cannot afford to completely move out of the financial hub Mumbai. The Government should enhance security in the area with modern equipment,” he said. The Mumbai diamond trade, on an average, logs a daily turnover of Rs 200 crore.

Many diamond companies are finding it difficult to shift from Zaveri Bazaar to the Bharat Diamond Bourse at the Bandra-Kurla Complex, as the approach to the commercial complex from both Bandra and Kurla railway stations is unsafe. Mr Nitin Goenka, Managing Director, Goenka Diamonds, said, “The structure of the Bourse is such that most of the offices, which are 400-500 sq ft each, have a large pillar of about 20-sq.ft running right in the middle. With such a huge pillar, it becomes difficult to do up the interiors. Ambience inside the office also plays a crucial role when we are negotiating with international buyers.”

Diamond buyers from abroad have postponed their trips following travel advisories by several countries against visiting India, especially Mumbai, after the blasts, Mr Goenka said.

(This article was published on July 15, 2011)
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