“Women of the Diamond Industry” focuses on the issue of gender equality along the entire diamond and jewelry supply chain. The series provides a platform for women in the industry to tell their own stories and describe the particular challenges they have faced in their careers.
The fifth article in the series is authored by Prernaa Makhariaa, the founder of Style Prer. An advisor to the industry, she is widely recognized as India’s first jewelry influencer.
A WOMAN OF INFLUENCE
Prernaa Makharia, one of India’s most keenly followed jewelry influencers, promoting Forevermark diamond jewelry in August 2020.
The journey I have traveled as a jewelry influencer has not been easy, not least because people would often struggle to understand the role that I play, which is producing original content about jewelry from a personal perspective, which my followers may use to make a purchasing decision.
During the initial years, when I would approach brands, their representatives would often ask me in which magazine they would be covered, or on what television channel their advertisement would be showcased. They did not understand the concept of influencing via the social media, let alone blogging. Often, they would consider what I do to be modeling or brand endorsement. Neither did they understand the kind of audience I was targeting, or the impact I could create.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, I had initially wanted to pursue a career in character animation, but the opportunities in India were limited. Being my parent’s only child, I did not want to move to the United States to pursue it.
Jewelry was a ready alternative. My family belongs to the Marwari community, which is well established in the Indian industry and loves jewelry. I had grown up seeing some of the best jewels available. It was a subject that came naturally to me.
I gravitated towards jewelry design, choosing some of the most prestigious institutions to attain my formal training. These included the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the Gemological Institute of India (GII) and Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SNDT) Women’s University
In 2002 I started to design and manufacture jewelry under my own brand, Prernaa Makhariaa.
Jewelry influencer Prernaa Makhariaa.
Role Models and Mentors
We are an orthodox Marwari family, in which working late hours or traveling is considered a challenge for women. However, my late maternal grandfather and my mother stood by me always, giving me the wings to fly. My mother became the backbone of my career, helping me forge the path I have made for myself.
I am also grateful to my mentor Rajeev Seth, for whom who I worked with for five years, heading the jewelry product development and merchandising department for a retail chain of 50 stores across India. He allowed me to explore my dreams. He encouraged me to be bold, which is unlike how many men in this male-dominated industry treat their female colleagues. His attitude was certainly not typical.
Not all men share his sense of self-assurance. Once, already as a jewelry influencer, the managing director from a well-known international company told me that he would feel insecure collaborating on a blogging project, because he was concerned that I would become the face of the brand, overshadowing his identity. What he failed to to understand is that, as an influencer, I am a catalyst. I share my personal experience to encourage my audience to consider purchasing a product.
Being in a corporate environment from 2009 to 2014 was a great learning platform and a career changer for me.
Taking the online plunge
It was during that period that I became fascinated about what was happening online. I loved what I saw developing in the jewelry blogging and influencer space, and was acutely aware that, while the overwhelming majority of those doing it were women, almost none were Indian. I saw an opening and decided to take the plunge in August 2015.
The initial reaction that I frequently received was one of mystification. The jewelry industry in India was very conservative, and people often did not understand the reach of digital media or the strength of online marketing. As I have already mentioned, they tended to see the jewelry influencer as a model.
I found myself educating people about the concept of influencers in the jewelry business. My style was not only to showcase the jewelry, but also to demonstrate how it is worn, while at the same time telling an interesting story of how it’s made and where it came from.
Styling became an important aspect of my work. There are minute details I take care of – how these gorgeous pieces of jewelry look on a person and what kinds of ensemble and accessories they can go well with.
Prernaa Makhariaa promoting Francesca Cartier Brickell’s book about the Cartier dynasty in Mumbai in January 2020. For the occasion she is wearing a Cartier watch.
The Lifestyle of a Jewelry Influencer
What has set me apart from many other jewelry bloggers and influencers is my zest to be experimental. Uniqueness is key. The audience today is very well read and traveled. It knows when an influencer copies and pastes content from another blog, rather than curating something original.
Today, as a jewelry influencer, my lifestyle may appear glamorous and glitzy, since I need to maintain a perfect picture on my social media channels. This may be true to a certain extent, but it’s a task that requires hard work. There may be days I am not up to being dolled up, but my audience is used to seeing me prim and proper, and expects me to maintain that image.
Influencers often have sleepless nights – planning projects way in advance, taking flights at odd hours, preplanning shooting locations, clothes, hair and makeup – all to achieve that one perfect picture.
I wake up and sleep glued to the phone. I find it very difficult to switch off as I am constantly thinking about producing content. As an influencer I need to post content 365 days a year. Any slight lag and you are out of the game.
Much has changed in my five years as a jewelry blogger and influencer. Earlier on, it was about long articles, exhaustively explaining the products. Today the audience’s attention span seems to have been reduced to three seconds or less. Content has to be interesting enough to grab their attention immediately. I focus more on creating innovative videos, and also keeping abreast with the latest technologies and the new social media apps that can be used to maximize my influence.
I am often approached by a varied genre of brands, but after years of trial and error I have become selective about whom I want to work with. It has been a great learning process.
Prernaa Makharia visting an artisanal gemstone mining site in Sri Lanka.
Change is Coming
There were other challenges I faced, which may not be specific to India, but they certainly are barriers that women in my country must face on a continuous basis. From childhood we grow up to hearing about marriage being the focal point, rather than a career. When a company hires a single woman, it typically is concerned about what will happen when she gets hitched up.
There have even been instances when I have been asked by clients, with whom I have worked on long-term projects, about my personal life and future plans. It was evident to me that they have assumed that, at some point, even the career-oriented woman that I am will one day shut shop and get married. I still laugh when I think about it.
But change is coming. I strongly believe that this is the hour for more women step forward and take a stand for themselves.
To view Prernaa Makhariaa’s work, please visit: