When Vajubhai Dhanak, a goldsmith from Gujarat landed in Dubai in 1958, his family was in debt of 5,000 rupees. Vajubhai worked in Dubai as a silversmith for a salary of Rs500, before returning to his home country with the family. Years later, his son Anil Vajubhai would return and open his own jewelry store in Dubai. Anil continued to live out his late father’s dreams and built Kanz Jewels, a multi-million dollar jewelry line in Dubai. We spoke to Anil Vajubhai Dhanak of Kanz Jewels about how his family has grown rich over the years and become part of the UAE Success Story.
Road to Dubai
Anil’s father, Vajubhai, was all 18 when he decided to take the leap from the comfort of his home in 1958. He was from Bagasara, a town 100 km from Rajkot in the Indian state of India. Gujarat.
“The family had a debt of 5,000 rupees. My grandfather had a goldsmith business but had incurred debt. So he wanted to send his son to work and earn money. At the time, our family’s reputation was widely known. Since we were in business, we haven’t worked for anyone else. My father was not even allowed to go to Bombay (now Mumbai) and work for a living as news would reach my hometown about the problems of our “paradise”. So when an opportunity presented itself for my father to move to Dubai, he seized it.
In Dubai, Vajubhai started working as a silversmith for a salary of Rs500. Soon other members of his family followed suit and joined him in Dubai.
“My grandfather Girdharlal Bhurabhai also arrived in Dubai two years later. Followed by four of my uncles and my grandfather. Today, more than 100 of our family live in Dubai, ”said Anil.
Rs1 for a jewelry license
Anil said he grew up hearing stories about UAE life from his father. “When my father arrived at the port of Sharjah in 1958, he paid Rs 1 for his visa. Later, after deciding to start a business, he only paid Rs1 for a jewelry license.
Anil has a vivid memory of the goldsmiths of those years: “The men wore white clothes that were black to the knees of charcoal. Their noses would also be smeared with the black of the charcoal ovens they use. So it was very easy to identify the goldsmiths at that time, ”he said.
How did Vajubhai make jewelry without sophisticated machinery back then? Anil explains: “To melt gold, you need a temperature of 1,100 degrees. Charcoal was used in the same way that there was no electricity back then. My father was a tough man. This is how he survived by doing what he did in the heat and without an air conditioner. It was a difficult life, a life he was ready to piss off. Imagine if you have to heat without electricity. It was with charcoal and no air conditioning.
Anil was born in Dubai in 1964 and left the United Arab Emirates in 1968 with his parents at the age of four. He returned in 1980, when he was sixteen, to join his uncle, Vinodrai Dhanak’s jewelry retailer – Golden Crown Jewelers.
“Everything I know about business today is due to the way my uncle mentored me. From staying humble to being focused in my work, learning from him has been one of the biggest turning points in my life.
“In 1981, when I was seventeen, I started the family business with my brothers – Manish Jewelers and ten years later, in 1991, I set out to start Kanz Jewelers. Today we have members from three generations actively involved in the business. The rest is history, as they say.
Working with his uncle didn’t mean Anil had offered everything on a platter for him. His uncle made sure Anil climbed the ranks on his own. He was forced to stay in company accommodation like the rest of the company staff and was not given any special privileges due to his family background.
“Getting to know the staff first-hand, understanding their needs, the day-to-day operations of the business, and interacting with customers – it was all a different learning experience overall.”
Anil stayed in the company accommodation until his marriage in 1985. “That’s where I started saving. For me, every penny counted and that’s how I was able to build up capital, ”he said.
“I learned Arabic here and the first word I learned was ‘khamsa wa khamseen’ (55), which was the rate per gram of gold at the time. Gram was a term commonly used when investigating gold rates. So even though I didn’t know Arabic fluently, when I heard the word gram, I would just say “khamsa wa khamseen” and the deal was done. “
Kanz Jewels was born
“I started working with a team of only five people in 1991. In fact, the first employee I hired was a building security guard. I asked him to come in the evening to clean my store. We set up our base in the Dubai Gold Souk and today in the same location we have seven outlets and a special jewelry making workshop. Our manufacturing unit is in Ghusais and has 80 workers. About 20% of the jewelry sold in our stores is made in our own unit. “
Kanz imports a variety of gold jewelry from Italy, Korea, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Today, Kanz Jewels is a multi-million dollar business, run by Anil Dhanak, Managing Director and his son Arjun, Director of the family business.
Why buy gold in Dubai and how to identify it
“The price of gold is cheaper here than anywhere else in the world,” says Arjun Dhanak. “There is a whole market dedicated to gold. You have creations from so many countries, we are spoiled for choice. When it comes to the purity of the yellow metal, there is no compromise in Dubai or for that matter in the UAE. Strict inspections ensure that the quality of the gold sold here is the best, ”said Arjun.
All gold jewelry sold in Dubai bears marks of finesse, Anil said. “They are usually carved into part of the jewelry and can be very tiny,” he explains. “If you can’t see the number on a particular part, ask for a magnifying glass so you can identify the number on the part. It is a quality marker. If this is on the coin you are purchasing, you can be sure it is a genuine item. “
Philosophy of money
“We are completely debt free and that is the only reason we are able to handle any losses we have suffered after the pandemic. Our lease was paid years in advance. Thus, our cash outflows are small in comparison. It has helped us a lot to overcome the slowdown that has occurred due to the Covid-19 epidemic, ”said Anil.
“We renewed the rent for most of our points of sale in 2018. I paid 10 years of rent in advance. The accommodation of our staff is also under a 13-year rental contract. I paid for this 10 years ago. It was just a business decision. The rents were going up and to fix my price, I paid in advance. Looking back, it really worked for me today, ”he said.
“Our survival mantra is that we have defied the rules set by the business gurus and worked on our own model. We don’t market ourselves aggressively, we are cautious in our progress. Our key to success is location. All of our outlets are in the Dubai Gold Souk and this has been a winner for us.