Venkat Raman –
It is often said that the relationship between a customer and a jeweller is one of trust, confidence and warmth, with the latter becoming a true family advisor.
It is not uncommon for people to visit their favourite jeweller with unusual requests: “Could I keep our family documents with you while we are away?’ or ‘Would you please look after our jewellery when we take our annual holiday,’ are among the questions that customers ask their jeweller.
These were also the posers that Harish and Jyoti Lodhia, owners of Sona Sansaar heard as they shifted their showroom to Tulja Centre (located at 190 Stoddard Road) in Mt Roskill on May 10, 2013.
Extended customer care
“Increasing burglaries in various parts of Auckland prompted many customers of Asian origin to entrust their jewellery and other precious items in our custody while they take a holiday. Soon, friends began to make such requests. We thought that it was time to provide a comprehensive and well-structured facility,” Mr Lodhia said.
The Lodhia couple are globetrotters, visiting gold and precious stones centres in India, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, United Kingdom and United States of America, at each of which they found safe deposit vaults offered as a service for a fee.
Just when the idea of establishing a specialist vault facility dawned on them is not known but it is safe to assume that even as Tulja Centre was building Mr and Mrs Lodhia had decided to dedicate the basement to structure the Vault business.
Tons of Steel
‘Imperial Vaults,’ as the new business is called, is the pride of Tulja Centre. Incorporating the state-of-the-art technology, it inspires confidence and comfort.
Elegance, aesthetic ambience, sophistication and comfort are among the finest attributes of the couple, the evidence of which, found in their Sona Sansaar and Sakhi showrooms, now extended to ‘Imperial Vaults.’
The decision to establish the new company was followed by intense research and discussions on a global scale. While Mr and Mrs Lodhia considered a number of companies specialised in vaults business, the need for a one-stop-shop that would manufacture, install and commission the system on Turnkey and Project Management basis loomed large.
“We decided to award the contract (valued at $3.5 million) to a Hong Kong company since their record of expertise and experience was as solid as the steel they use. We have just had a ‘soft opening’ of the facility and the response has been encouraging. We propose to have a formal opening early next year,” Mrs Lodhia said.
Their second son Viraj, who manages Imperial Vaults, has spent several months analysing the market for safe deposit vaults, visiting the seven vaults that are in operation in the Auckland region and assessing customer demand.
A graduate in Business Management from AUT University, he has brought theoretical knowledge combined by the business acumen that he inherited from his parents to the new business.
“Building and managing a floor of vaults is no easy exercise. There are several layers of safety and security measures involved in this facility. Lasers that detect even the slightest movement and set off the impeccable alarm system is just one of them. Imperial Vaults corresponds to the best in the world,” he said.
This facility is a veritable steel wall several times more secure than perhaps a commercial bank, with sensors, close circuit television cameras and other detection methods working round-the-clock.
The Lobby, which comprises seated facilities, meeting rooms and a reception counter is the first point of contact between customers and the management of the company. Walls lined with steel and bulletproof glass panels are early indicators of a robust security and safety network.
At the heart of this Vault business is the ‘Palm Scanner,’ which, at the entry point identifies customers through a highly sophisticated system.
The human palm comprises 34 muscles, 17 of which articulate the fingers and the thumb and unlike other parts of the body, the skin of the palm is hairless and does not tan. It is durable and touch-sensitive.
“The Palm Scanner has an additional security feature of a unique code that is distinct to every customer. These two features open the main steel door, which leads customers to the threshold of the Vaults,” Viraj said.
Mr Lodhia said that the company has in place a biometric software which incorporates a complex biometric enrolment, identification and authentication process.
“The software provides a modular, configurable, scalable and secure service-oriented platform, suitable for our purpose,” he said.
Mrs Lodhia said that the built-in facilities can also incorporate retinal recognition. Although we are satisfied with the existing security net, there is no room for compromise or complacency. It is important to build on existing system, for which there is in-built capability,” she said.
Inside the Vault room are 10,000 boxes of eight sizes – categorised from A to H, from the smallest (60 X 111 X 600 mm) to the largest (250 X 250 X 600 mm) with the annual rent ranging from $99 to $500.
There is a special scheme which allows customers outright purchase of individual boxes, accruing substantial savings in the long run.
“About 1000 customers have hired boxes in the first few weeks since Imperial Vaults became operational a few weeks ago. We have a long way to go before this facility becomes fully booked but we are confident that word-of-mouth publicity and a sustained marketing campaign will achieve results,” Viraj said.
The Vault room resembles a typical facility that is often seen in movies, although this company boasts of the best in the business. Every safety box in the steel room has two sets of keys, one each with the management and the customer.
“Investment bullion and precious metals, jewellery, family heirlooms, irreplaceable and sentimental objects, important documents and intellectual property, data and hard drives are among the items that can be safely stored in our boxes,” Viraj said.
He is fully trained to operate the business which is open seven days a week from 7 am to 10 pm. A complement of eight to ten staff will be at hand to serve customers.
In our Stoddard Road Special published in Indian Newslink September 1, 2013 edition, we had made the following observation about the Lodhia couple.
“Their style of doing business, combined with a penchant for elegance and orderliness has been a source of endearment to many and a learning curve for their first son Vishal, who will be followed in the coming years by his younger brother Viraj.”
That observation has come true now.
With a substantial potential market of affluent consumers combined with their propensity to buy gold and jewellery, the future of the safe deposit boxes is now more secure than anytime in New Zealand’s history.