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After a tough six months of pandemic (and continuing) wherein most of us were resigned to our homes and restrained ourselves from socializing, finally festive season ushers in hope and good cheer, and of course bringing an occasion to buy some jewelry.
During a typical Diwali and wedding season, there is always a rush for gold, jewelry, and gems. Can we expect to see the same investment even when the big fat Indian has dramatically slimmed down? Will Diwali festivities lack the luster of gifting due to restrained and cautious socializing?
IANSlife speaks to Ajoy H. Chawla, Chief Executive Officer of Titan’s Jewellery business that houses iconic brands such as Tanishq, Mia, Zoya, and CaratLane. Titan’s Jewellery arm today has a network strength of 450+ exclusive retail outlets in 200+ towns and an extensive manufacturing and geographically dispersed sourcing network in India. Zoya introduced its new collection, Rooted — an exquisite lineup of over 45 pieces for the modern sophisticate. Seeking cues from the inner strength of the feminine spirit, the collection is in keeping with the brand’s deep commitment to fine design and impeccable craftsmanship.
Q: The Big Fat Indian wedding has become a lighter affair, do you think this will impact jewelry trends?
A: In general, we feel that weddings will continue to be a major occasion for jewelry purchases. Our luxury brand Zoya is not really a bridal jewelry brand. It is bought for the celebration of personal milestones, and that includes gifts for weddings where customers may be looking for something eternal, beautifully crafted, and meaningful to commemorate the special occasion.
The target audience that Zoya caters to is also not as economically impacted as much as they are impacted by sentiment. Thus, they would not hold back on purchasing jewelry, at least we have not seen any evidence of that. Since precious jewelry is seen as an asset that appreciates in value over time unlike other expenditures in a wedding that are solely experiential, it is likely that people are going to spend as much, if not more on jewelry, hence gaining significantly in the share of wallet.
Q: Rooted is a lineup of over 45 modern pieces do you think these are pieces in keeping with the new age bride who wants to be able to re-wear jewelry often?
A: Zoya in many ways is redefining the luxury jewelry segment, with a focus on aesthetics and craftsmanship. It is not really targeting the wedding/bridal market. Rooted is a collection that celebrates the journey of the Zoya woman as she reconnects with her feminine self. It seeks to enable the woman who plays multiple roles in her life including that of a nurturer, caregiver, and ambitious go-getter to embark on a journey of rediscovering her authentic self.
The Zoya woman is well-traveled, exposed to the best in the world, and aesthetically astute. She is a mature individual and this collection symbolizes her resilience and mirrors her attitude to break free from the confines of societal expectations, delving deep within to draw strength. The collection’s design has been inspired by motifs from the rainforest, which is a metaphor for this inner strength and is an exquisite line up of colorful and spirited pieces to suit different occasions.
Q: The collection draws on motifs from the world’s rainforests, is this the brand’s way of showing support for the environment and sustainability in the new normal?
A: Each collection at Zoya takes between nine months to a year from concept to delivery. So, this collection was also planned almost a year ago, with designs inspired by the inner strength and resilience possessed by the rainforests in the face of climatic upheavals. It is serendipitous that we are launching it at a time when nature is teaching us a few things and the theme is more relevant than ever. There is more consciousness towards the environment and the planet, and there could not have been a better time to launch ‘Rooted’.
Q: You have used the entire spectrum of gemstones, including emeralds, sapphires, tanzanites, etc., Is this the brand’s attempt to bring joy and color back into the lives of women who have faced the brunt of the Covid-19 impact?
A: Since the inception of the pandemic in March, people have had very limited social contact and there is a sense of frustration having to sit confined at home for so long, being unable to lead their lives as they previously did. They are seeking a release. The upcoming festive season gives people a reason to celebrate and connect; the color and exuberance of this collection befit the celebratory experiences that we are all looking forward to.
Q: Spearheading iconic brands such as Tanishq, Mia, Zoya, and CaratLane, do you believe that luxury and jewelry are recession-proof?
A: It would be inappropriate for me to make such a sweeping conclusion. What I can share is that we have observed that when it comes to jewelry, people see it as an asset, whether it is gold or studded. It is timeless, precious and it appreciates in value over time. Further, In India, jewelry is deeply connected to rituals and sentiment; it is symbolic of the eternal love that binds a father and a daughter, welcoming a daughter in law in the family by gifting her a jewelry piece, celebrations of milestones, and so on.
For the Zoya and the Tanishq customer, the impact is more humanitarian and on sentiment and not economic. Therefore, it is not about whether it is recession-proof, it is about how the sentiment may be impacted. We are fortunate that this is not so for our brands. In the last few months, we have seen a 90 percent recovery in Zoya and Tanishq and we are hoping it will continue through the festive season.
Q: With the strength of 450+ exclusive retail outlets, do you think that online is now essential and the company has to re-focus its online strategy, or do you believe when it comes to jewelry nothing can replace the touch and feel?
A: I’d say the combination of online or physical is working well for us, a ‘phy-gital’ strategy. Being physically present in smaller towns has been beneficial for us because different classes have been impacted differently. Our presence in middle India has especially benefitted Tanishq, protecting us from the higher impact of COVID in metros and bigger cities.
For Zoya as a luxury brand, our focus has always been on personalization and ensuring the comfort of the customer. Here also the ‘phy-gital’ strategy has actually worked well because jewelry is a high involvement purchase. Appointment based selling and home visits have been away for life ever since the brand’s inception, and this continues with the addition of video and WhatsApp call options for customers with our sales executives who not only act as jewelry advisors but put in a lot of effort to know the customers and understand their specific preferences.
In order to make their special occasions memorable, we continue to curate experiences for our customers that are meaningful. Quite recently, we had a customer who wanted to make his spouse’s birthday special but did not want to step out of the house due to the situation. We arranged for a specially curated lunch for the couple from Taj with their favorite cuisine. This is how we personalize and provide bespoke services for our customers from the comfort and convenience of their homes.
Q: In terms of sales during the upcoming festive season, what financial impact (in percentage or figures) do you think the Covid-19 will have?
A: We will be able to share more information on the financials only after the Quarter-2 results are out.
Also Read: Knowing the Basics of Your Sneaker Shoes
Q: Do you think we will find a spurt of revenge buying in the months of October through December as similar to what happened in China once everything was back up and running.
A: Revenge buying is yet another piece of jargon that has been heavily used! I would simply call it about wanting to feel self-indulgent. Since people have been locked away for a while now, they would want to express themselves indulgently, celebrating the upcoming festive season. Coincidentally, ‘Rooted’ from Zoya is colorful, spirited, and fluid — an exquisite symbol of self-expression. Further, Zoya is bought for celebrating personal milestones and special occasions and these are not going away, hence we are confident that the Zoya woman will want to acquire this exotic and unique collection as soon as she sets her eyes on it. (IANS)
Facebook says it plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to work on a new computing platform.
The company said in a blog post Sunday that those high-skilled workers will help build "the metaverse," a futuristic notion for connecting people online that encompasses augmented and virtual reality.
Facebook executives have been touting the metaverse as the next big thing after the mobile internet as they also contend with other matters such as antitrust crackdowns, the testimony of a whistleblowing former employee and concerns about how the company handles vaccine-related and political misinformation on its platform.
In a separate blog post Sunday, the company defended its approach to combating hate speech, in response to a Wall Street Journal article that examined the company's inability to detect and remove hateful and excessively violent posts. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Metaverse, Augmented and Virtual Reality
As children, singing the rhyme Rock A Bye Baby was a fun thing to do. It was a statement of thrill and adventure to imagine a child climbing to the top of a tree and rocking to sleep. Especially in the Indian context, rocking a baby to sleep by attaching the cradle to the tree is quite a common thing. But the origin of this rhyme, or lullaby, seems rooted in other histories.
The most popular notion associated with this lullaby is of women leaving their babies tied to tree branches, rocking to sleep with the wind. It is believed that at the time this lullaby was written, it was inspired by a coloniser who saw the Native American women tie their children in birch bark cradles to the trees. The babies went to sleep rocked by the gusts of wind while the parents went about their tasks.
A Native American wooden cradle Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Another interpretation of the rhyme is that it is an allegory to Betty Kenny, or Kenyon, as some versions record it. The Kenyons were a tree-dwelling family, and they used to live in a yew tree. They had carved the tree branches to fit their babies and allowed them to nestle there during the day. The part of the rhyme that talks about falling off the tree is a little scary in this context, but the speculation is that the tree branches were quite low.
The final interpretation of the lullaby has political allusions. King James II of England, was the last Catholic king. He had no heir and reportedly used another baby to impersonate his own. But he was found out and exiled in the Glorious Revolution that took place after he was deposed. The act of falling down from the cradle is a metaphor for those who make mistakes from being overconfident or proud.
The many versions that exist of the rhyme/lullaby make it confusing to really know why it was written in such a strange and morbid manner. Each version points to a different time in history where certain practices were prevalent. However, despite all the various interpretations available, the lullaby itself works wonders in rocking babies to sleep, and perhaps that is the only reason it has survived.
Keywords: Lullaby, Rhyme, King James II, Kenyons, Native Americans, Colonisers
As kids growing up in different states, Shoba Narayan and Michael Maliakel shared a love of one favorite film — "Aladdin." Both are of Indian descent, and in the animated movie, they saw people who looked like them.
That shared love has gone full-circle this month as Narayan and Maliakel lead the Broadway company of the musical "Aladdin" out of the pandemic, playing Princess Jasmine and the hero from the title, respectively.
"Growing up, there was such little South Asian and Middle Eastern representation in the American media, and Princess Jasmine was really all I had. She was a huge role model to me as someone who was intelligent and strong and independent and beautifully curious, and that's who I wanted to be," says Narayan, who grew up in Pennsylvania.
The pair arrived at "Aladdin" in very different ways. Maliakel is making his Broadway debut, but Narayan is a musical theater veteran, having made her Broadway debut in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and touring with "Hamilton" as Eliza Hamilton.
She was in "Wicked" as Nessarose when the pandemic shut down Broadway in March 2020. Her agent called in April with the prospect of auditioning for Jasmine. She sang "A Whole New World" over Zoom on gallery mode, pretending to be on a magic carpet. "It was a very unique experience," she says, laughing.
Disney producers flew her to New York to meet face-to-face and go through the material again. Narayan was asked to read with different Aladdin potential actors. She got the gig: "I went from a wicked witch to a Disney princess. Can't complain."
Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, came from the world of opera, a baritone who studied at Johns Hopkins University and the 2014 winner at the National Musical Theatre Competition. He trained his voice to be flexible, waiting for the right window to open.
"I didn't really see a lot of people doing what I wanted to do in the world," he says. "There just wasn't a whole lot of representation. So it's really hard to imagine yourself in those scenarios when you have no one to look up to as a role model or an example of how it could be done."
He played Porter and understudied Raoul in a national tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," which ended its run in Toronto just before the pandemic hit.
"I always dreamed that Broadway might happen someday," he says, laughing. "I'm just kind of dipping my toes into the waters in one of the biggest male roles in the business right now, and it's kind of surreal."
'Aladdin' featured as a Broadway Musical with a cast of Indian origin playing the main roles Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Broadway's "Aladdin" is a musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Robin Williams. The musical's story by Chad Beguelin hews close to the film: A street urchin finds a genie in a lamp and hopes to woo a princess while staying true to his values and away from palace intrigue.
Key Alan Menken songs from the film — including "Friend Like Me," ″Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World" — are used. The lyricists are the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin.
The show — and it's two new leads — had a few performances to celebrate Broadway's return from the pandemic this fall before it was forced to close for several days when breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected. The actors say the safety of the cast, crew and audience are paramount and closing was the smart move.
"This is how we keep theater going in the pandemic," Maliakel says. "The other option is to just not do it at all. And that's not an option. A week's worth of lost performances, when we look back on things in a year or so, I think will just be a little blip on the radar."
They both look back with heart-thumping appreciation at the early performances when they welcomed back theater-starved audiences, who gave the company 3-minute standing ovations just for singing "A Whole New World."
"It is every brown girl's dream to be singing that song on an actual flying carpet," says Narayan. "And the fact that I got to do it on Broadway in the full costume with the lights and the 32-piece orchestra beneath me — oh, my gosh, I really had to hold it together. It was emotional overload for me."
Maliakel recalls that he and his brothers wore out their VHS cassette version of "Aladdin." He remembers having lunchboxes, pajamas and bed sheets with the film's theme. Aladdin was "every little brown kid's prince." Now he is that prince.
"Now, finally, to get to get paid to do it on the world's largest stage — it's not lost on me how crazy that is," he says. "The responsibility of my position right now feels really great. This moment sort of feels bigger than me in some ways, and I don't take that lightly. I think it's a really exciting time." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Aladdin, Broadway, Musical, Indian Descendant cast,