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Address of Consul General at the Annual Meeting of the 47th Street Business Improvement District, New York on October 16, 2017

 Consulate General of India
New York

The 47th Street Business Improvement District (47th BID)

Annual Meeting- October 16, 2017

Remarks by Sandeep Chakravorty, Consul General of India

      It gives me great pleasure to be here to address the Annual Meeting of the 47th Street Business Improvement District (BID) and share the stage with Ambassador Neville Gertze, Permanent Representative of Republic of Namibia. I would like to thank Mr. Harvey Nagin, BID President and Mr. Michael Grumet, Executive Director of BID for the invite.

      “The Diamond District” is very strategically located in the heart of New York City and as we know, over 90 percent of the diamonds that enter the country go through New York City and most of them through this Diamond District, which is the center of both, the American diamond and jewelry industries.

      Gathered amongst us are representatives of the world’s major exporters of diamonds and I feel a sense of pride to know that a large number of dealers in this trade in the Diamond District are my compatriots and I am happy to see many of you present today at this event. This District epitomizes the welcoming culture of this great city of New York. It is inclusive, it is excellent, it is high value and it is special. It is also a wonderful convergence of the very best that several cultures and peoples have to offer, American, Jewish, Israeli and Indian. This year when India is celebrating 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States and 25 years of diplomatic relations with Israel, I believe the Diamond trade in the 47th District provides a happy coincidence for all of us.

      If there is any country in the world whose names is intrinsically connected with Diamonds, it is Indcc, both historically and in contemporary times. Knowledge of diamond starts in India, where it was first mined. The word most generally used for diamond in Sanskrit is transliterated as "vajra," "thunderbolt," and "indrayudha," "Indra's weapon." Because Indra is the warrior god from Vedic scriptures, the thunderbolt symbol indicates much about the Indian conception of diamond. Early descriptions of diamond date to the 4th century BC. By then diamond was a valued material. The earliest known reference to diamond is a Sanskrit manuscript by a minister in a northern Indian dynasty. The work is dated from 320-296 BCE.

      Till around the 18th century diamonds from India were coveted the world over. The Diamond mines of Panna and Golconda were the only sources of Diamonds. The Kohinoor is world renowned. In 1725, important sources were discovered in Brazil, and in the 1870s major finds in South Africa marked a dramatic increase in the diamond supply.

      As we started early, our mines ran out of diamonds, but Indian entrepreneurs learnt quickly to bring their craft to the polishing and trading of diamonds. So, while India may not produce diamonds today, we are very much an integral part of the world diamond trade.

      I would, taking advantage of the presence of the Ambassador of Namibia to narrate an anecdote about diamonds and Nambia with an Indian connection. I am not sure if the anecdote is apocryphal or not but still being a fine story merits narration. An Indian entrepreneur obtained a contract to dredge the sea of the coast of Namibia for phosphorus. While doing so, he was throwing the mining overburden back into the sea, till someone pointed out that that what was being thrown into the sea had diamonds. Overnight he converted to being a diamond miner rather than a phosphorus miner.

      The Gems and Jewellery Industry in India plays a significant role in the Indian economy, contributing around 6-7 per cent of the country’s GDP. Government of India has declared the Gems and Jewellery sector as a focus area for export promotion and has recently undertaken various measures to promote investments and to upgrade technology and skills to promote ‘Brand India’ in the international market. India presently allows 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the sector through the automatic route. India is the hub of the global jewellery market because of several comparative advantages including low costs and availability of highly skilled manpower. India is home to the world’s largest cutting and polishing centre for diamonds. India exports 93 per cent of its cut and polished diamonds produced. 75 per cent of the world’s polished diamonds are exported from India making it the largest exporter in the world today. To my understanding, today, approximately 12 out 14 diamonds sold in the world are either cut or polished in India. India’s exports of cut and polished diamonds rose from US$ 11.16 billion in the Financial Year 2004-05 to US$ 22.78 billion in Financial Year 2016-17, thereby registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.13 per cent.

  • UAE, USA, Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Latin America and China are the biggest importers of Indian jewellery.
  • Top 5 exporters of diamonds in year 2016 were:
    1. India: US$24 billion (18.8% of total diamonds exports)
    2. United States: $19.5 billion (15.3%)
    3. Belgium: $15.9 billion (12.4%)
    4. Israel: $15.6 billion (12.2%)
    5. Hong Kong: $15.3 billion (12%)
  • Top 5 exporters of diamonds to USA Year to date August 2017 (Jan. to August) :
    1. India: US$ 5.5 billion
    2. Israel: US$ 4.9 billion
    3. Belgium: US$2.0 billion
    4. Hong Kong: US$0.6 billion
    5. South Africa: US$ 0.4 billion

      It is indeed a matter of pride for New York that the 47th Business District is one of the powerhouses of the economy. What is even more impressive is that people of many nationalities and ethnicities work here together shoulder to shoulder generating prosperity for each other and this country as well as other countries with whom they have business dealings. It is indeed an example for other sectors and industries to emulate, an example where several global centres work together to produce things of beauty and joy. Diamond and precious stones business is built on trust, safety and security. I would like to impress upon the BID to concentrate on this aspect of safety and security of the District so that it continues to attract investors from all over the world. 

      I would once again like to thank Mr. Michael Grumet, for inviting me to be a part of this meeting and take this opportunity to inform you that the Consulate will be very pleased to assist with any trade related concerns or opportunities for investment in India.