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Mithun Sacheti is the founder of CaratLane, an online jeweler in India and one of the country’s leading ecommerce companies. Mithun grew up in the jewelry industry and prior to founding CaratLane, he opened new stores for his family business throughout the southern regions of the country. He has studied gemology in California and Bombay.
Sramana: Mithun, let’s start at the beginning of your story. What is your journey that leads up to CaratLane?
Mithun Sacheti: My family has been in entrepreneurship for many generations. My father moved to Bombay from Rajasthan to set up his own jewelry stores in Bombay. I was born in Bombay in 1978 and I did my education there before moving to California to study gemology engineering and manufacturing. When I moved back, the most logical thing for me was to start something which was allied to the jewelry industry. I grew up in that industry and my education was in that industry.
I moved to Chennai and decided to build a store. In 2000 I started to build out the first store under my father’s brand name. This was an extension of the family business, and I was the first one to move to the south. That had always been considered a different territory because the language and everything else was different. That is where jewelry and entrepreneurship started for me.
I build up that store for a couple of years. I found that 2001 was not the greatest year. The world was in a recession, so it was not a great time to be starting a business. I sustained it for three years by selling to everyone who walked through the door. I ran a three-man operation back then. Slowly but surely, we grew to the point where in 2004 we added another floor to our store. By 2005, we were one of the best stores in the city. Anyone who was looking for fine jewelry knew about us.
Sramana: What as the revenue level at that point?
Mithun Sacheti: In 2004 we were around $7 million or $8 million from the store I was managing. At that point I also started looking at doing something new, so I opened another store in the south of India. It was an attempt to build a professional store. In India everyone was used to the family concept when it came to jewelry stores, where the owners sat in the store to sell everything themselves. I was trying to break that model. I built the second store like a little palace since space was not as expensive. It was a concept store and came out very beautiful. It is one of the best stores in the country today.
One thing that kept sticking with me was my past experiences during my studies in California. I used to go to downtown L.A., where the diamond industry was based. I would pick up loose diamonds I knew from family connections. I would then bring those to retail stores in San Diego for them to sell on Saturday and Sunday. The wholesale business was shut in those days. I was basically just transferring inventory from L.A. to a retail store and hoping that something would click. The first year went very well, but in 1999 we saw Blue Nile come in, which really marginalized prices. The money I made from that became my pocket money. I also saw the power of Blue Nile.