LIVING BY MAHATMA GANDHI’S MAXIM:
IF YOU DO NOTHING, THERE WILL BE NO RESULTS
On March 25, 2020, as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit India, a full lockdown was declared over much of the country. Sheltering with his family at their home in Mumbai, Rajiv Mehta, a Director of Dimexon Diamonds, understood the significance of the event.
Writing a month later as a guest blogger on the WDC website, he recounted an observation he had made to his wife and three young children on the second day of the lockdown. “Guys, we are living through what will be considered a historic moment in modern history and when the next generation look back, they will try to understand how we survived this period,” he said.
He was not only referring only their personal survival, but also to all those with whom they are connected, and in particular the company’s large workforce and the communities that surround its factories.
Dimexon’s factory complex in Coimbatore, in the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu. The city is not known as a diamond production center, but was favored by the founders because of their family connection to the region.
In Coimbatore, the southern Indian city in which Dimexon’s founding family is rooted, and where the firm still operates much of its production base, the industrial kitchen serving its local diamond manufacturing unit began providing daily cooked and fresh food to more than 30,000 people immediately after the lockdown was imposed. It was an initiative applauded by local government authorities.
There were other pressing problems. In the entire country, with its population of 1.36 billion people, there were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic only 40,000 medical ventilators. Experts said at the time that this was less than 1 percent of what may be required.
“The call was clear,” Mehta wrote in his WDC blog. “If we could join in the initiative that other enterprises across the country were also pursuing, and put together our resources and intellect in building a low-cost yet efficient ventilator, we needed to give it a shot. After all, we had nothing to lose. It reminded me of the father of our nation, Gandhi, when he said ‘You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.’”
On April 2, just a week after the first lockdown was imposed, Mehta brought together a team of engineers from the company in Coimbatore, and tasked them with coming up with a working model of a medical ventilator.
Ten days later he was shown two working prototypes built by the team. These were shared with other experts, working as part of the larger national effort.
Dimexon’s founder Pankaj Mehta (center), flanked by his sons Rajiv (left) and Vishal, who today manage the company.
Firmly committed to Corporate Social Responsibility
Dimexon is one of those rare Indian companies that began as a jewelry retailer and migrated to diamond manufacturing. Most have done it the other way around.
Its founding father is Pankaj Mehta, who was born into a family of successful jewelry store owners in Coimbatore, and who in 1966 traveled across country to Mumbai with the goal of starting a diamond business.
The company that he created today employs more than 2,000 people, with subsidiaries in Hong Kong, mainland China, the United Arab Emirates and Belgium. Now managed by his two sons, Rajiv and Vishal, it has been a De Beers Sightholder since 1976, and is also a Rio Tinto Select Diamantaire and member of the ALROSA Alliance.
The firm is deeply committed to Corporate Social Responsibility, championing issues like women’s rights and dignity in the workplace. Three quarter of its staff are women, and they are provided with both training and flexible working hours to help balance the demands of a career and family.
At the community level, the company provides funding and support for educational institutes and employee-managed volunteer teaching programs. To improve workplace and living standards for its employees, Dimexon provides both environmental protection and health care awareness programs.
In 2006 Dimexon became the first diamond company worldwide to voluntarily sign on to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). It is a certified member of the Responsible Jewellery Council and a long-time member of the World Diamond Council, where Rajiv Mehta serves on the Board of Directors.
A Dimexon factory in Coimbatore. Three quarters of the company’s staff are women, and they are provided with both training and flexible working hours.
Industry tackling a community’s drinking water problem
Dimexon and its founding family retain a very special relationship with Coimbatore. Located in the State of Tamil Nadu, the industrial city is today home to about 2.8 million people, and the number is growing at a rate of 2.7 percent per annum, meaning it will surpass 3.5 million by the end of the decade.
But the city is struggling to keep up with a fast-growing population. One of the most pressing problems is fresh water supply. While the region itself has ample rainfall, it is beset by poor infrastructure, leakage and insufficient wastewater collection and treatment. This has resulted in a situation by which the supply of drinking water is limited to only a few hours every five to ten days. Not only is the development of Coimbatore threatened, but so is the health of its residents.
While not traditionally a diamond cutting center, Dimexon pointedly located a large part of its production capacity in Coimbatore, at one stage operating five cutting and polishing plants in the city and employing thousands of people.
In 1998, already aware of the deteriorating fresh water supply problem, the company decided to construct an independent waste treatment and rainwater harvesting facility, able to support its own campus and workforce, while reducing pressure on the municipal and regional water authorities.
The water-treatment plant at Dimexon’s factory complex in Coimbatore. It is capable of processing about 45,000 liters of waste water daily, providing water for irrigation and reducing pressure on the local water infrastructure.
Over a period of almost three decades, the company has worked actively to improve the local environment. Hundreds of trees planted around its facilities have upgraded air quality and reinforced the soil, while the water treatment plant has reduced waste and improved irrigation. Approximately 45,000 liters of wastewater are treated each day. The rainwater gathered is used to flush toilets.
Dimexon’s environmental program was one of a handful of diamond industry projects highlighted by De Beers in a section of the diamond mining group’s website entitled “Diamond Do Good.”
The holistic approach adopted by the Indian diamond company has created a working environment that prioritizes health and wellbeing, De Beers wrote, not just for workers but for the entire ecosystem.
“Owing to the vision of our founder, Pankaj Mehta, my brother and I are fortunate to be playing a role of stewardship of our family business,” said Rajiv. “In a similar way, at Dimexon, we consider ourselves as stewards of our environment so that we can provide a healthy and prosperous world for our future generations.”
Hundreds of trees have been planted around the Dimexon factory complex in Coimbatore. They have upgraded air quality and reinforced the soil.