Nirav Modi is 48 years old. He was born in Palanpur in Gujarat and lived in Bombay with his wife Ami, who is also accused in the Punjab National Bank scam, before he vamoosed just like that.
His grandfather, a diamond trader, was an early settler in Singapore. His father Deepak shifted base to Antwerp in Belgium where Nirav spent his childhood. His father regaled Nirav and his three siblings with “diamond stories” over dinner.
Nirav wanted to be a music conductor. After studying finance for a year at Wharton, he dropped out to the dismay of his parents.
At age 19, Nirav was sent to Bombay to cut his teeth under his uncle Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali diamonds, where he reportedly worked 12 hours a day, six-and-a-half days a week, for Rs 3,500 a month.
Ten years later, after amassing Rs 5 crore rupees in savings and cashing his equity investments, he broke out on his own in 1999 and set up Firestar Diamond, now valued at $2.3 billion. Ranked #57 in the Forbes list of India’s billionaires in 2017.
He is a designated partner in four enterprises: Neeshal Enterprises LLP, Paragon Jewellery LLP, Paragon Merchandising LLP and Panchajanya Diamonds LLP.
He began selling parcels of polished diamonds and then sorting them, but Nirav’s biggest talent was in sourcing diamonds. He had started off by buying diamond roughs from De Beers but quickly switched to Alrosa of Russia and the Australian miner Argyle.
Nirav cannot draw and explains his designs to craftspersons: “I travel a lot, I get inspired and I give a narrative, an emotion, to my designers who sketch. Then the engineers figure out how to make it.”
First Indian jewellery “designer” to figure on the cover of the Christie’s catalogue. Is famous for his “embrace bangle” made of 800 different parts, “stretchable bracelets”, and the ‘endless band’, an unbroken line of diamonds set in an almost invisible 18k white gold band. His pieces cost from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 50 crore.
Nirav is reported to have strategically picked up rare diamonds at bargain prices during the slowdown in 2009.
A magnificent 12.29-carat diamond from the famous Golconda mine which was fashioned it into a necklace called the Golconda Lotus went under the hammer at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong in 2010 for $3.6 million (just over Rs 16 crore).
His website carries the picture of actress Priyanka Chopra wearing the majestic Mogok Ruby Suite—27 ravishing rubies from the Mogok mines in Myanmar that required two years of sourcing to finally craft into an exquisite necklace.
Roped in former Facebook country head Krithiga Reddy as an advisor. Uniquely, his 16 stores worldwide are open seven days of the week. “I am open on Sundays because that’s when husband and wife are free to come together.”
In India, he has three grand stores: a 6,000-square-feet store at what used to be ‘Rhythm House’ in Kala Ghoda in South Bombay, which he purchased for Rs 32 crore, and two in Delhi, at Chanakyapuri and Defence Colony.
By 2025 he wanted to be counted among the top five jewelry brands in the world in the same league as Cartier and Tiffany.
The taciturn diamantiere has a weakness for Canali suits, Bentley cars, Francis Newton Souza canvases, Japanese teas.
Counts Kate Winslet among his clients. His brand has featured Lisa Haydon and Priyanka Chopra as its ambassadors.
Nirav’s brother Neeshal is married to Mukesh Ambani’s niece, Isheta Salgaoncar.
Motto for budding entrepreneurs: “Do something you are passionate about and surround yourself and work with people who have the same passion and drive as you. Think outside the box – don’t be afraid to take risks and be different.”
*after the legendary Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh