Offering sellers of gold, diamonds and watches a private, comfortable setting in which to do business is one of the benefits the Verma Group offers, but there is more.
“We educate our customers on whatever it is we’re buying from them,” says Amit Verma, owner and CEO of the Atlanta-based company that also operates out of New York, Dallas, Rockville, Md., and New Delhi, India. “We have a very large network, a large base of customers who we buy from” – including pawnbrokers, refiners, jewelers, gold buyers, wholesalers and dealers.
“If someone is selling a rare Cartier piece from the 1920s that’s worth $150,000, I’d say 99 percent of the people you show it to wouldn’t be able to buy it for more than scrap value,” Amit says. “We’re probably the only company here that will put a big price tag on the Cartier name, the antique value, the history of the piece.
“We have probably 100 dealers locally who will ask for these kinds of items every single day. Our network is our pride and joy. We’re very personal. I know most of our customers on a first-name basis.”
From India to Manhattan
The Verma Group bills itself as a three-generation family business, but two other generations are just waiting to be verified. “We’re trying to get our family history together, but basically we’ve been around for five generations,” Amit says. “The fourth generation back was a gemstone cutter and the fifth generation back was in the loaning business against high-end jewelry.”
Amit’s father, Vijay Verma, who came to the United States from New Delhi in 1980 with Amit’s uncle Virender Verma, today runs all of the company’s New York stores that buy gold from the public. Amit’s grandfather Raj Pal Verma ran a jewelry shop in New Delhi. “He was into astrology and colored-stone work,” Amit says.
“Because my father was a jeweler, I grew up in a jewelry store – literally I’d hang out in the store when I was 5 years old, and that’s where my parents would take me after school.
“When it was time for college, my dad made me go to GIA to get certified in diamonds. So before I went to college, I was actually a gemologist. I didn’t want to do it, but that was sort of the rebellious side of me.
“After college, I wanted to be in the diamond business,” Amit says. “My dad helped me out and I opened my own company in the Diamond District in Manhattan in 2003. During the first year, my company was suffering. I was taking losses. In the second year, I was breaking even, and in the third year, things were going great. Everything was awesome.
“In the fourth year, my dad’s retail store went under. I had to sell my diamond company to help my dad, but his jewelry store had dwindled down to nothing. I said instead of selling, let’s start buying from the public. We put one small sign up – 81⁄2 by 11 – at our store, saying “We Buy Gold.” From that point forward we started opening stores and now we have 20 stores nationwide with about 40 employees. We were buying gold, and now we buy from dealers, too.
“Since I knew the diamond business well, I thought I might as well start buying diamonds. And now we buy diamonds from jewelers all across the country.”
Amit takes pride in the way the Verma Group does business. “We have GIA graduates, watch specialists, or horologists, on staff, and watch repair guys who know watches as well as the big guys who work at Rolex. We have gemstone specialists and antique historians who deal with rare and historic pieces.”
Amit adds that his brother Gaurav Verma, who is currently balancing medical school and handling the company’s online marketing campaigns, is “a pillar of importance to the company.”
A lot of dealers ship their gold and diamonds to the company’s Atlanta office, Amit says. “The diamonds that we receive from all the dealers usually are second-hand goods that need to be polished, sent overseas and remanufactured or reconditioned, then sent back to us for sale. So we’re kind of involved in many different parts of the chain.”
The company sells in trade shows across the country and to wholesale dealers.
“Our policy is to make only 10 percent (profit); that’s it,” Amit says. “We try to work on small margins. If we try to make a killing on one or two deals, that’s what kills you in the end. A lot of people change their pricing every month; but for us, the pricing stays the same. The day I opened my company that’s what I told myself I was going to do. If I buy something for $10, I sell it for $11.
“I have no problem doing business in front of other people so they know what I’m doing. Because of our high volume, that’s all we need to make.
“Every day our business evolves,” Amit adds. “We’re opening a high-end retail store at the end of September, and we’re buying from almost 1,500 different accounts all over the country, from pawn shops to jewelers wanting to rotate their inventory.”
The new store, now under construction, will be in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead area. “It will be about 3,000 square feet and it will be beautiful – we’re spending time and getting the details in order, exactly the way we want it,” Amit says. “We want it to be a really cool retail experience.”