The newly-launched diamond exchange will make India, the world leader in the export of cut and polished diamonds, a global trading center too.
The Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB), touted as the world's largest diamond trading centre, opened Sunday in India's financial capital Mumbai more than 20 years after the idea was first proposed.
AdvertisementIndia's bid to become a diamond hub to match Antwerp in Belgium and Tel Aviv in Israel has had a bumpy ride, overcoming contractor disputes, floods, fires and charges of misuse of funds.
The three million square foot (287,700 square metre) exchange will bring export and trading firms, banks, vaults, a customs department and investors under one roof, in an eight-tower complex in Mumbai's main commercial district.
"With this, Mumbai will be the largest diamond hub in the world," BDB president Anoop Mehta said of the 11-billion-rupee (240-million-dollar) project.
Mumbai's diamond trade currently operates from cramped offices in three buildings in the city's south.
Traders will shift to the state-of-the-art, high-security complex by December, Mehta told reporters at the bourse during a preview for journalists last week.
The exchange has 900 trader-members and another 1,400 provisional members.
Bourse officials showed off the customs department and a "strong room" for storing diamonds intended for export.
"All segments of the diamond business will get streamlined by coming under one roof, ensuring economy of trade and better work conditions," said Darshan Lakhani of Mahima Gems, a Mumbai-based diamond manufacturer.
In earlier years, exporters had to carry diamonds across the city in order to get clearances from the customs department.
India is the world's largest cut diamond exporter, with annual exports of around 28 billion dollars, but trading volume is negligible.
"We need to grow as a diamond trading centre, to match Antwerp and Israel," said Mehta.
India's diamond industry could grow by an average 10 to 15 percent each year in the next five years, as the new bourse attracts global traders, officials said.
The United States is currently the largest diamond consumer, accounting for 40 percent of the market, compared to seven percent for India and four percent for China.
China is a growing rival to India's dominance of the cut-diamond market, sourcing stones from Zimbabwe, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A Gujarat-based firm, Surat Rough Diamond Sourcing (India), is in talks with Zimbabwe's government to train young Zimbabwean traders to cut diamonds, in return for a regular supply of rough stones from the sanctions-hit African nation.