July 21 was a red letter day for Rajesh Mehta, the 52-year-old Executive Chairman of Bengaluru-headquartered Rajesh Exports Ltd.

At 4 o’clock in the evening, he was informed that the small company he had set up in 1989 with a 500 sq ft jewellery store along with his brother Prashant, had entered the hallowed turf of Fortune 500 companies at 423{+r}{+d} place.

“There was always a silent confidence deep inside, that we will emerge as one of the best companies in the world some day. So, it’s a dream come true for me,” said Mehta, who begins work at 8.30 a.m. and winds up past midnight at 12.30 p.m., every day.

Asked what goal he is looking to achieve next, he said: “I want to make Rajesh Exports one of the most respected companies in the world with our products, systems, work culture and institution.”

Now, more than ever, we have to be more responsible, diligent and clean up our systems to make them so robust that they can compete with any international system. “Microsoft, Google and Apple are respected not for their size or the money they make but, for their innovations, systems and clean work culture,” elaborated Mehta.

Vertically integrated player After its acquisition of Switzerland-based gold refinery Valcambi last July, Rajesh Exports became one of the largest vertically integrated gold players in the world, from mines, refinery and R&D to manufacturing and consumer retailing.

The company has the capacity to refine 2,400 tonnes of precious metal a year; processes 35 per cent of the gold produced globally and has a built up capacity to manufacture 400 tonne of plain and studded gold jewellery in its three plants in Bengaluru, Cochin and Dubai.

The bulk of the company’s reported turnover of ₹38, 618 crore in FY16 from its India operations accrued from exports, with its consumer retail business (Shubh Jewellers) contributing just 8 per cent.

The company’s consolidated turnover for FY16 was ₹1,61,000 crore.

Retail biz hits roadblock While the company continues to bag huge export orders, its retail business set up in 2012 with 80 ‘Shubh Jewellers’ stores across Karnataka, hit a roadblock two years later; a far cry from its targeted 500 stores by 2015.

“We put a hold on our retail expansion as we had the opportunity to acquire Valcambi. Now that it is complete, we will focus on retail expansion through our Shubh Jewellers franchisee stores, opening 30 new stores across Karnataka of which six will be opened by the year-end” said Mehta, who is looking to expand the store footprint to Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu, next.

The company will also be launching an e-commerce platform to make gold bars and jewellery available to a global audience and establish a presence in duty free shops at international airports around the world, where gold bars and jewellery will be available through automated vending machines.

Competitive edge “Our prices are 5-6 per cent lower than other jewellers because we are a vertically integrated company and incur costs of 2.5-3 per cent while our competitors incur 11-12 per cent cost,” pointed out Mehta.

Asked what he does to relax and rejuvenate, he said, “I work six-and-half-days a week, for 15 hours every day and take half-a-day off on Sundays when I listen to Hindu music, play cricket or watch a play.” Aside from work, which, he says, is a hobby, he enjoys the adrenaline rush of a daily 5 km run at the crack of dawn.