Pugata: From one kind of ring to another for TalkDirect boss Zak Patel

Retail entrepreneur Zak Patel has made a name for himself in the telecommunications industry with his O2 franchise, TalkDirect.

Bling king: Entrepreneur Zak Patel has made his name in the telecommunications industry with Talk Direct. He has now turned his hand to the jewellery trade. Pic: Tony Johnson

The business has 16 stores across Yorkshire and employs over 250 staff. It also has a call centre for business to business customers.

However, Mr Patel has now also turned his attention to high end jewellery.

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His latest venture, Pugata, provides wedding rings, necklaces and bracelets to retailers, as well as a bespoke offering for individual clients.

A diamond display: A range of Pugata jewellery on display at it's Batley base. Pic: Tony Johnson.

So why the drastic diversion? Mr Patel says it all happened by chance.

The entrepreneur said: “It was a conversation with our jeweller that sparked it. They’re based in the Middle East.

“We looked into the market in depth. We assessed the market as to what was going on. We looked at what was available and we thought there’s a real opportunity here for somebody to come along and do things slightly differently.”

The Batley-based company has 27 staff including both manufacturing and back office operations. Mr Patel is keen on making the jewellery in the UK.

Retail entrepreneur Zak Patel has made his name in the telecommunications industry. Pic: Tony Johnson.

Having made his name in the telecommunications industry, he admitted that there’s a “huge difference” in terms of product.

Mr Patel said: “In the telecoms industry the thing is everybody needs a mobile phone nowadays. However, with jewellery it’s slightly different. Not everybody wears jewellery.”

Pugata has had to take a more proactive approach to getting its product out to market but the principles of commerce remain the same.

“Business is business, whether you’re selling phones, jewellery or whatever product,” Mr Patel said. “Not everyone needs jewellery but there’s still a huge market.”

Despite largely selling to other retailers, Pugata says it is putting a great deal of emphasis on customer service.

Mohsin Hazi, operations director at Pugata, said: “Retailers deserve the same treatment. If retailers buy from us it’s not a short-term fix.

“We make sure that if their client comes back with any issues surrounding the jewellery then we sort that.”

Mr Patel is also able to draw on the experience he gained with a prior stint in the fashion industry. The entrepreneur previously ran fashion brand, Denham, through a licence agreement.

“The fashion industry and the jewellery industry go hand in hand,” he said. “We have some amazing contacts via the fashion industry to help us get through the doors.”

Pugata says its diamonds and gemstones go through the Kimberley Process certification scheme, designed to stop the trade in conflict diamonds.

It’s metals are Assay Assured, meaning that they go through a process of testing to ensure authenticity, Mr Hazi said.

He added: “We’re part of the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ), which also governs the way we do our business within the jewellery industry.”

Mr Patel says that he isn’t worried by Brexit as he believes it will create opportunities.

In all industries, he said, there are different types of people wanting to or toying with the idea of doing business.

Mr Patel added: “There are people who just want to be part-time with very minimal investment. They’re there for a quick buck. All these people will disappear because they don’t have a long-term strategy. We’ve got a very long-term strategy.”

The long-term aim for Pugata is to “become a household name” and Mr Patel is keen to play up the company’s British roots.

Jewellery alchemy to create name

The name Pugata is an amalgamation of the periodic table letters for gold (Au), silver (Ag) and platinum (Pt).

“If you scramble the letters from the three chemical elements, you come up with Pugata,” Mohsin Hazi said.

“And it rolled off your tongue,” Zak Patel added.

Mr Patel said his O2 franchise Talk Direct was doing “very well” despite a downturn on the high street.

He added that company had to be innovative in order to get customers through the door. “It keeps us on our toes,” the entrepreneur said.

Mr Patel wants Pugata to be viewed in the same light as Swiss watches.