T S Kalyanaraman, Chairman and Managing Director of Kalyan Jewellers has made it to the Forbes list of billionaires. Kalyanaraman's net worth is $ 1 Billion (Rs 5400 crore) as per the Forbes List announced this week.
The development is also a lesson for Finance Minister P Chidambaram. The finance minister has been using all instruments to curb consumption of gold by Indians as its import is stretching current account deficit. It plain language it means that the government is importing gold using its foreign exchange.
But there is no alternative for the Indians. Where do the Indians invest? The share market is down, real estate is out of reach or still not a growth story, banks pay very low interest due to government controls and cartelisation of interest rates, and other investment opportunities are mostly suspects.
Chidambaram had announced in the budget last month, measures to encourage people to make productive investments in financial markets and housing, instead of just putting their money in gold.
"The household sector must be incentivised to save in financial instruments rather than buy gold," Chidambaram had said.
But gold is the only tangible investment that has fetched good returns right from the time of cave dwellers to chip making age.
India imported 860 tonnes of gold in 2012. Gold is second only to crude oil in the import bill of India.
However, to make his argument convincing, the finance minister should make investment options more attractive and also make it easy to encash. For Indians, gold is not just investment, it is an alternative to ready cash and a security. Till they feel secure in other investment markets, the Indian population will continue to buy gold.
And what did Kalyanaraman say: "I feel privileged to be a part of the elite Forbes list. This however, would not have been possible without the support of our customers. We at Kalyan Jewellers have always advocated fair trade and transparency in the jewellery retail trade. All this has held Kalyan Jewellers in good light. I attribute this success to all our customers and thank them for this privilege"
Kalyan Jewellers is the single largest company owned Jewellery retail chain in the country in terms of number of showrooms. The newest billionaire owns 45 stores in India and plans to open 36 more by March 2014, including five in the Middle East.
His jewellery venture has been educating the public about malpractices in gold quality and pricing through their campaign 'Fight against Impure Gold'. May his tribe increase.