MY WORK­ING LIFE

Joy Alukkas’s daugh­ter-in-law, So­nia John Paul, thinks pink.

Friday - - Contents -

So­nia, tell us how you came to head the gold and di­a­mond jew­ellery divi­sion of the Joy­alukkas group?

I’m a Dubai girl. I went to school here and only moved away for col­lege – first to In­dia and then to the UK to do an MBA in avi­a­tion man­age­ment. My mother and elder sis­ter both work in the avi­a­tion field, with Emi­rates, and I was keen to fol­low in their foot­steps. Af­ter mar­ry­ing John Paul, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the group, my fa­ther-in-law Joy Alukkas, who’s the chair­man, en­cour­aged me to get in­volved in the com­pany.

Did avi­a­tion man­age­ment come in handy in the jew­ellery busi­ness?

Well, I’m able to use some mod­ules of my stud­ies such as mar­ket­ing, op­er­a­tions and strat­egy in the jew­ellery busi­ness. I still have an op­por­tu­nity to use what I stud­ied in avi­a­tion man­age­ment in Joy­alukkas’ avi­a­tion ver­ti­cal, Joy­jets, which of­fers pri­vate char­tered flights. I am yet to tap into that.

My hus­band and fa­ther-in-law trained me in the ba­sics – the jew­ellery, stones, me­tal. I met sup­pli­ers, learnt how they ne­go­ti­ate and what gold rates are based on... I started off in the gold and di­a­mond depart­ment, went on to fig­ure out fi­nance op­er­a­tions, and worked my way to­wards mar­ket­ing and strate­gies. Now I am look­ing af­ter the mar­ket­ing, brand­ing and strate­gies of the busi­ness.

CSR is a big part of the group...

Yes, the CSR divi­sion was started by my mother-in-law Jolly Joy but Think Pink, our breast can­cer ini­tia­tive, is the brain­child of my hus­band. A lot of peo­ple in his fam­ily have suf­fered from the dis­ease, and if can­cer is de­tected in time many lives could be saved.

So John launched this cam­paign in Oc­to­ber 2011 with the theme, Take a Pink Pledge and the motto Self Check Saves Lives. The cam­paign urges women to un­der­take reg­u­lar self-ex­am­i­na­tions. It aims to ed­u­cate and cre­ate aware­ness among women about breast can­cer in the UAE.

When I joined the group in 2012, John asked me to take over as he felt women would be more in­clined to lis­ten to an­other woman talk­ing about some­thing so per­sonal.

This year, we have tied up with Aster DM Health­care hos­pi­tals and are go­ing to schools, churches and com­mu­ni­ties to hold breast can­cer aware­ness classes. We have gy­nae­col­o­gists to per­form checks and teach how to do self-ex­am­i­na­tions. We also dis­trib­ute free book­lets con­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion about breast can­cer in all our jew­ellery shops in Oc­to­ber. We are tar­get­ing men as well so that they can pass on the in­for­ma­tion to the women in the fam­ily. Most im­por­tantly, there is no com­mer­cial as­pect to [this drive].

Is this cam­paign run in the UAE only?

Not re­ally. The foundation also helps peo­ple in In­dia in dire need to earn their liv­ing by help­ing them set up a small busi­ness, learn a trade or even get them an au­torick­shaw. We’re also build­ing a fully fledged hospi­tal in Thris­sur in Ker­ala, south In­dia, where treat­ment, in­clud­ing for breast can­cer, will be pro­vided free of cost for the pa­tients [in need].

Our group also or­gan­ises blood do­na­tion cam­paigns ev­ery three months as part of our CSR ac­tiv­i­ties in the Mid­dle East.

Does it faze you to deal in a volatile mar­ket such as gold?

Life it­self is un­cer­tain. What you have to­day you may not have to­mor­row. There are prob­lems and un­rest hap­pen­ing every­where in the world.

With re­gard to busi­ness and de­ci­sion­mak­ing, I am not at the apex. Al­though I am one of the di­rec­tors, I don’t make de­ci­sions with­out con­sult­ing the chair­man or ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. I am a per­son who be­lieves in con­sen­sus, and I’m not ar­bi­trary by na­ture. I like to be con­sul­ta­tive, so what­ever de­ci­sion I make is well con­sid­ered and cer­tainly not im­pul­sive.

What are your plans to take the fam­ily busi­ness for­ward?

When you’ve risen high enough, the only way to grow fur­ther is lat­er­ally – di­ver­sify. Gold is our main busi­ness. But we don’t want to put all our eggs into one bas­ket, so we are diver­si­fy­ing. We al­ready have many ver­ti­cals, now we are con­cen­trat­ing on ex­pand­ing them too. We started a tex­tile divi­sion, Jolly Silks, some time back, and now we are ex­pand­ing its pres­ence in the Mid­dle East mar­ket.

What are your plans for the fu­ture?

I have a sweet tooth and am fond of bak­ing. I’ve al­ways wanted to start a bak­ery of my own. So, that’s one on my wish list. The other is de­sign­ing – I want to start my own line of de­signer dresses.

Your hus­band, John, has been ranked among Asia’s top 10 wealth­i­est men…

Wow! I don’t know... it’s so un­real. I just feel hum­ble. It’s just a big re­spon­si­bil­ity on us to see that we try and help the un­der­priv­i­leged and not keep every­thing to our­selves. The other thing is to not let it go to your head. The sober­ing thought is that all of this wealth could go in no time. Just keep your feet firmly on the ground and be thank­ful for ev­ery day you have on this earth.

While gold is at the heart of the Joy­alukkas busi­ness, So­nia John Paul aims to di­ver­sify into un­ex­plored ter­ri­tory

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.