Amish Shah of ALTR Created Diamonds: “Retail stores, malls, need to make the transition to experience stores”

Retail stores, malls, need to make the transition to experience stores. Luckily that trend is starting to take off. The mall is not just a place to shop anymore but to have a real brand experience. Physical retail space will now be there to give consumers great experiences to go along with the products. The […]

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Retail stores, malls, need to make the transition to experience stores. Luckily that trend is starting to take off. The mall is not just a place to shop anymore but to have a real brand experience. Physical retail space will now be there to give consumers great experiences to go along with the products. The brand’s retail space will be the definition of who the brand is and what the products will mean to their customers.

As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amish Shah, president of ALTR Created Diamonds. He has never been afraid to challenge the status quo. After gaining experience, through his family business, in the diamond industry and in fine jewelry at an early age, he joined R & R Grosbard Inc. in New York in 2001 and helped transform it into an international powerhouse. Ten years later, Amish took over its operations and led a merger with his family business, and started ALTR Created Diamonds. As the only vertically-integrated diamond enterprise that provides a true end-to-end product, it creates the purest form of diamonds (type-IIa diamonds) known to man.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It depends on how you define a career. When you talk about the diamond industry, I was born into it. I’m a third-generation jeweler. My family has been in the business of diamonds and fine jewelry from India since 1933. After 88 years in the business, I get to be the generation that’s taking the history of diamonds and marrying it with the future and fusing it with technology, which is one of the major passions of my life. It was already a part of me from the time I was 10 years old. Whether it was wiring different devices in my building or writing a book by the time I was 12, tech has been a part of who I am. However, when you are born in the diamond business you end up in the diamond business. I ended up here from my birth, but it was my passion that drove me to bring tech to the diamond market.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

As a person who has traveled extensively learning not only about the industry, but about people and cultures, every story has been unique. A couple of years ago I was invited to the Dubai Diamond Conference for an open panel conversation where the other speakers were the most respected leaders in the diamond industry. I had the pleasure to be on a panel with Stephen Lussier, Executive Vice President of De Beers and Stuart Brown, CEO of Mountain Province. The panel was about innovation and lab-grown diamonds. I was humbled to even be a part of the event, but the most interesting part was the fact that I was really a nobody at the time surrounded by the who’s who of the top diamond people of the day. So out I walked to the podium in a red suit while in a room full of blue suits. The funniest part of the whole thing was that the chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) was in the room laughing as I put the major industry players on the run by telling them what the consumer wanted to the point they became agitated. When the panel was over, and we were walking down the stairs one of the senior gentlemen asked, “Do you think you can keep this up?” I was humbled knowing that such a powerful person not only saw this coming but that they were concerned. It was a moment of realizing that what I stood for was right. Created diamonds were going to change this business. It was finally going to make the mainstream market an open market. It was finally going to break price control and the consumer was going to be the winner.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Handling the public relations side of things has been the funniest part to date. When you’re a nobody and you start doing live interviews, not just to a small group but to a worldwide audience, you find yourself in odd situations. My first TV interview was with BBC World News. The person interviewed before me was the founder of Bitcoin and the other segment was about Elon Musk’s , putting the roadster on the moon. After my segment ended, the security asked us where our car and driver were waiting for us. We came in a cab, so we decided to quickly order an Uber, but sprung for the luxury version to try and better fit in with the crowd. The building actually made us wait in the lobby while they went out and searched the car ( like secutity detail would ) . At that moment, we were quite happy we decided to go for the luxury Uber that day.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re consistently working on projects based on an evolving road map. As an entrepreneur that map is always dynamic. It’s determined by situations of the day, naturally accruing events like what happened this year, and consumer behavior. We’re currently working on an extremely exciting project for 2021 that focuses on the consumer experience and transference of authenticity. As an extraordinarily strong ingredient brand, we’ve worked hard to do just that through our work and through the work of our retailers. We believe this category needs far more consumer-focused experiences with something that relates to them and who they are. It’s by far the most exciting project we’ve done to date and it will be the last piece of the puzzle that ALTR Created Diamonds needs in order to offer complete transparency from the seed of the diamond to when the jewelry slides down the customer’s fingers or around their neck.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The most interesting tip I could offer is simply to believe in yourself and follow your instinct. I know everybody says that but when you’re trying to bring in change to an industry it’s imperative to believe in yourself. Very few people actually make it. It’s not that the others didn’t try, but it’s about how many gave up along the way. When we talk about colleagues in our industry, we talk about the major shift we’re all facing. The category is in its infancy and our peers and respected veterans did a lot to build the desire for diamonds in the past. The problem is we’ve lost that connection with the consumer and we need to rebuild it. So, this journey is not going to be the easiest one to undertake. With that in mind, the number one thing I would tell my colleagues is don’t give up on the change were trying to bring.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There is no one more than my brother that I can thank for the journey. I’m really nobody without him. We’re a team, or a tag team really. We’re joined in every possible way. While I focus on learning consumer behavior and working towards authenticity and transparency to deliver it to the consumer, it’s my brother who is the reason why we’re even in this created diamond category today. Without him the sparkle hidden in the rough diamond would never come out. Delivering transparency and authenticity of a fine created diamond in a jewel would be impossible. We’re two different people, very unique but that’s what keeps us going. We battle when we must, but we work as a team. While he is the quiet one and I’m the one talking about all this, he is the core of ALTR Created Diamonds.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think the conversation of corporate responsibility is something we take seriously, but we don’t use it as an advertising conversation. We believe in taking care of those who have invested their lives and worked tirelessly to build this. They are the true gems of this industry who go un-thanked. I want to help retain those families. I want to have every artisan who cuts a beautiful diamond, that makes the beautiful jewelry to stay in this business happily. That is who I am. That is what we do.

The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

The diamond industry is still living in the 1960’s and 70’s. Most industries have transitioned and started giving their customers omnichannel experiences over the last few decades. We’re an industry that refuses to work in an open world competition. The more you go online, the more educated the consumer will get and the more empowered they become. The pandemic changed that. It woke up the people who were hiding their heads under their pillows that if you don’t give your consumer a digital experience you won’t have a business to worry about much longer. I’ve seen a major spike in sales this year through e-commerce clients we work with who have seen upwards of 300% growth during the pandemic. They have captured a lot of business that the brick-and-mortar stores had. I will say that the physical store and the experience in it are still critical to the consumer. However, young entrepreneurs and some stores that have been around forever have finally opened their eyes and invested in the right tools, including consumer experience, giving them an education, and selling products online. I don’t mean they are all becoming e-commerce companies, but they are learning to guardrail between their stores and their websites. This has been a new trend which is showing a significant, positive impact. Retailers are now offering virtual consulting, video conferencing, jewelry presentations over video, and real-life photography of jewelry are now being shown to consumers. Which is a major change. Everything has evolved and companies have looked at it all as omnichannel opportunities. We know 2021 is going to be a journey, and a continuation of significant retail industry shifts. Entrepreneurs know that the real business uptick for the marketplace however isn’t going to happen until 2022 and beyond. In the next few years, I see a major shift of at least a third of the luxury revenue happening on an omnichannel platform, whether that’s as simple as buying online and picking up in the store later. This is the biggest change we‘ve seen so far, and its gratefully a positive one.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

Retail stores, malls, need to make the transition to experience stores. Luckily that trend is starting to take off. The mall is not just a place to shop anymore but to have a real brand experience. Physical retail space will now be there to give consumers great experiences to go along with the products. The brand’s retail space will be the definition of who the brand is and what the products will mean to their customers.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Transparency, quality, authenticity. These are what these major brands are known for. A Costco buyer knows that they never have to worry about quality. They know the company can tell them where it’s coming from, and how it’s sourced. They built a strong platform that allows the consumer to have a great experience whether online or in the store. Lululemon is a great example of learning a consumer and then building products that best suit them. They’ve made sure to evolve their product line to meet the customer’s needs. Rather than focusing on the dollar, those who focus on a good cause will always find profits inevitably.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Competition is healthy. Being scared about it shows great weakness. When looking at companies all over the world, I would praise them for standing up and creating products and platforms that reach out to the consumer. At the end of the day, that’s who it’s all about. The consumer is the ultimate winner. I’ve always focused on what they want. If a company offers someone a product they want at a price they can afford, from a brand they can relate to it doesn’t matter where it came from. So, I would always say that in today’s global market, it’s odd that people consider countries barriers to trade. There are no real barriers to trade around the world anymore.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I had the ability to influence people’s lives I would influence their perspective about health. It is the greatest wealth that most of us are born with but we lack in managing it. As a young person we focus on acquiring wealth and chase opportunities that force us to compromise the time with our loved ones and our own health. During this journey the bank account might get healthy but the physical health deteriorates. When we start getting older we spend the same wealth trying to earn our health back. I would like to influence the perspective and balance that people have between work and healthy living. We cannot forget that it influences not only your family but society as well.

How can our readers further follow your work?


This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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