外文标题：A mini China in the heart of Mumbai
MUMBAI: Mumbai does not have its own China Town. The western business district of Bandra-Kurla Complex, though, is fast turning into a home for several middle-class working Chinese men and women, almost all of whom are there to pick diamonds from wholesale traders at the bourse.
Last year, the neighbouring country pipped India to become the largest buyer of gold. Since then, demand for diamonds has been rising, forcing corporations to send out their purchase teams to shop at BKC. This has seen the commercial suburb become a mini-China with residents who celebrate the spring festival and cook chow fun in rented apartments in and around BKC.
Several Indian diamond traders, on their part, have set up sales verticals to cater to the Chinese demand. Their canteens are stocked with tea leaves from the hills of Fujian, perhaps the most famous tea distinguished by its smoky aroma and flavour. They serve snacks with natural-cut handmade ebony chopsticks. Their staff, many of whom don’t know a word of English and are fluent only in a Gujarati, can reel off coherent Mandarin.
“This is the first time I am here to buy diamonds. Back in China and Hong Kong, demand for diamonds is many many many,” says Zhang Gui Hua, who also has an English name, Alice, which she uses when in Mumbai. Alice adds that many other competitors are making a beeline for homes in Bandra and so their companies rent out premises for two to three years, even though most Chinese buyers travel back and forth as and when they get orders.
“Diamonds are cheaper in India than in Hong Kong where we earlier used to source the stones from. Now that demand has spiralled, companies with bulk orders are sending their staff to India where they get the best rate,” says Ruang who, like the others, comes to the bourse with his magnifying loupe.
China surpassed Japan in 2011 to become the biggest diamond consuming nation, second only to the Unites States. Retail sales of diamond jewellery jumped 18% to $9.2billion in 2011. That had a local effect too: Sales in India gained 17%.
Ashok Gajera, proprietor of Laxmi Diamonds, says the Chinese always bought diamonds, but the quantity has increased and India is where they are sourcing most of their diamonds from.
“They are buying many more stones now. Also, earlier they used to be conscious of the quality and would only pick top quality diamonds. Now, with the demand, they even pick up a lot of the lower variety, for there is a market for that too.”
The Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council had speculated the demand from China. Vipul Shah, chairman of the council, says China is a “promising big market” and while buyers are very regular at the BKC bourse, demand is only going to pick pace.