CaratLane Stories — The story of the first order
The author is the Chief Operating Officer of CaratLane.
In August 2008, the CaratLane website finally went live. Building the website took a lot of time and money ( we didn’t have Magento or Shopify. Were using something called OSCommerce). It also took a lot of time and effort to get a courier company to ship jewellery ( BlueDart after a lot of meetings and persuasion ) and a bank payment gateway ( HDFC Bank. Very few options back then and we need a reputed name to build trust with customers). HDFC Bank needed big Fixed Deposit to agree and set a transaction limit of 50K.
We started doing some very basic PR and marketing. Every few hours, I would check if we got an order. They would all be test orders placed internally.
Then one morning, I saw a big order placed from Japan. Multiple attempts to place and multiple failed payments. It was an order for a pair of solitaire earrings. I still remember the details. Round, 91 cents each, H-VSI quality. Approx 6.9 lakhs. It was an international payment and far exceeded the transaction limit.
There was a contctus email also from the prospective customer. This was an Indian based in Japan, who was trying to place this order for his wife for their anniversary. Wife was in Gurgaon. He had discovered us on Google. Was a little irritated that the payment was failing every time.
I immediately called him and explained the payment gateway situation and told him I will get back to you with a solution by end of day positively. He found it absurd that we had listed diamonds worth lakhs of rupees on the website but the transaction limit was set at 50k. That we found an Indian in Japan ( more advanced than India in terms of selling jewellery online) was lucky break for us. He was familiar with solitaires and didn’t find it odd that someone was trying sell solitaires online.
At the same time, he was exasperated and told me that he was going to give me one more chance only. If I couldn’t make it work, then he would go buy somewhere else.
First, we called the diamond vendor and I asked him to hold the stones for us. We didn’t want. a situation that the stones got sold somewhere else. We hadn’t sold a single stone till then, so we didn’t have much leverage or clout with them. But thanks to Mithun’s jewellery connections, they agreed. I forget their name but god bless them.
Then I went to the HDFC Bank office and tried to convince them to increase our transaction limit. It wasn’t easy. The words “international transaction” and “ 7 lakhs value” weren’t exactly music to their ears. Luckily, our FD amount was higher than this value. Finally, after some internal discussions, they agreed to raise the limit for a two hour window.
I sent an email and informed the gentleman of the arrangement. He sent a short reply saying , “OK”.
All this while, the entire organisation was buzzing. Mithun and Kalai and everyone else were following up like rabid cricket fans check the scores of an India- Pak nail biter.
Ten minutes, before the time window opened, I was in position. Had reconfirmed with HDFC. Had the website admin guy on standby as well. Called and let the customer know that everything was in place and he could go ahead. And then I waited. Refreshed the order page every minute.
Finally, around 20 minutes into the 2 hour window, the order was successfully placed. I again called the gentleman and thanked him for trusting us and helping us get off the mark with a 7 lakh bang. There were excited midnight calls with everyone.
We got the order ready quickly in the next few days. Rather than send it through BlueDart ( we didn’t want any surprises), we sent a person to hand deliver the earrings along with a bouquet.
Everything went well after that. The lady was pleasantly surprised and loved the earrings. We had a happy customer in Japan. We were all relieved to finally get going.
I thanked the customer when we completed ten years. He vaguely remembered us and didn’t realise the significance of his first order and how far we had come.
Things have changed so much from that time. It’s so easy to get started now. You can start the business with half the money we used for the FD.
We didn’t realise it back then, but the first order was a harbinger of so many things that happened later. Gifting and birthday/anniversary purchases have become such a significant pillar of our business. We have an international business in place with lots of things planned for FY24. Solitaire buying and vendor relationships played a very key role in the journey of CaratLane ( it’s a separate story that I will share soon).
In the early days, every order used to be like this. Each one of them is worth a story.