The rise of Palanpuri Jains who monopolise much of India’s diamond business…

As Nirav Modi Saga builds, it is interesting to get some business history lessons.

Nirav Modi belongs to a community of Palanpuri Jains who have monopolised the diamond trade in India. Palanpur is a small town to the north of Gujarat. Here is a superb video on Live History India portal documenting their rise.

This article notes how it is a tight knit community who apart from their diamonds also care a lot about food:

The Palanpuris, originally from Gujarat, control 90% of the diamond trade in India, guarding the bourses with the same exclusionary tight fist with which they keep non-vegetarians out of building societies. Known for their hard work, their knack to spot opportunity and their incredible family network of kakas, mamas, nephews and cousins, the Palanpuris are an extraordinary story of community ties and wealth creation.

The stories were mostly similar: They arrived in Belgium in the sixties and seventies, cousin by cousin. Cheap low-quality rough stones were bought in Hoveniersstraat, sent to a relative in Surat for low-cost polishing, and brought back to Antwerp where they would be sold at a small profit. Soon, they virtually took over the business from the Orthodox Jews.

People across the world, especially in the big diamond trade centres, were happy to indulge their peculiar quirks. A Palanpuri diamond merchant could easily fly from Surat to Tel Aviv, strike a deal worth crores, then retire to his five-star hotel and call room service to lay out an elegant table for the thepla and methi nu masalo that had flown with him in a separate suitcase.

They have lived mostly between Antwerp and south Mumbai with a formidable family network that crisscrossed across the world. Where one went, others would follow — when it came to schools, restaurants or holiday destinations. In Mumbai, every Palanpuri child went either to New Era or Manav Mandir School (later, Activity High School and Green Lawns became popular) and boys were not expected to study much beyond 12th standard. BCom was a big deal. Qualifying beyond that would earn you a place on Palanpuronline, a website for achievements of community members.

Palanpuris have long been addicted to Cream Centre and Swati Snacks and any restaurant which will endlessly churn out Jain pizza and garlic-free Mexican, a particular favourite because it offers fun options within vegetarian. If one buys a flat in a particular building, others will soon follow. Chandanbala and Purab, two apartment buildings on Malabar Hill, are 100% eggless Palanpuri buildings and the former has its own temple.

Hmm.

Barring the recent spate of events, all this community building and how it shapes and then monpolises business is just plain fascinating. Behind all these marquee brand names in most big businesses of different types, there are deep community connections…

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