Valentine's Day makes good business for Pradeep Gupta, vice president of Quintessence Jewelry, a jewelry business without a storefront. Eighty percent of his customers are wholesale; the remainder are online retail customers, and most of his product is silver. He competes with overseas providers and is learning to navigate "drop shipping" directly to retail customers of companies that feature his products on their websites.
The son of a diamond and gemstone jeweler, Gupta, 35, launched his business with his brother in 1999 after graduating from Baruch College, spending a year classifying thousands of diamonds in Mumbai, India, and earning his GIA (Gemological Institute of America) diamond certification in New York.
What are the hot sellers for Valentine's Day this year?
Heart-shaped jewelry, colored stones like pink, red, primarily rubies. Diamond jewelry's always popular.
How can you distinguish between synthetic and natural gemstones?
Synthetic stones, the way the reflection bounces from within the facets, look like a glass texture, it looks incredibly clean. So if it's practically flawless and it has a deep color, the saturation throughout the entire stone is absolutely perfect, chances are it's not 100 percent genuine. To distinguish precious stones from synthetic stones is a lot easier than semiprecious, [because] nowadays you can find semiprecious stones that are absolutely clean. To be sure, take it to a jeweler.
You produce your jewelry in India. How do you compete against foreign companies that sell direct to U.S. buyers?
It's become more of a direct sourcing business, where the world is open now and China and India are far more accessible than they were 10 years ago. Trade regulations have slightly improved, but . . . there's a whole customer base that actually prefers you be in the United States; they want the real-time services that they can get in America with an American company. The other big thing is, we offer our customers certain return privileges . . . which most of these Indian or Chinese companies, if you source from them directly, won't honor at all.
How do you market your business?
We exhibit at trade shows, send catalogs to customers and have a wholesale website that we try to market. We do a lot of cold calling to wholesale buyers.
What's the future for your business?
Over the past 18 months I have seen a lot of requests for drop-shipping programs . . . but we haven't integrated with all of them yet because of some technology resources. If I work with 10 different accounts, I need to make sure I have the product in stock for them to be able to display it on their site. So I see us integrating with a solution that can accommodate that because we see drop-shipping requests increasing in the future.
Why did you choose to stay with sterling?
The accessibility was easier. The profitability was better than gold and we had a strong customer base always asking for the sterling . . . but then we started branching out in 10k and 14k and recently we've begun to see some success in that.
NAME. Pradeep Gupta, vice president of Quintessence Jewelry Corp. in Great Neck
WHAT IT DOES. Specialize in high-volume manufacturing and fulfillment.
EMPLOYEES. 7 full time, 2 part time.
ROLES THEY PLAY. Inventory management, order fulfillment (pick, pack and ship), merchandise receiving, quality inspection.
REVENUE. $6 million to $8 million