DIAMONDS are FOREVER
HABIB JEWELS managing director Dato’ Sri Meer Sadik Habib dissects the fabric of the jeweller, writes justin ng
Something about the notion of an enterprise being family owned, passing down through generations, flourishing yet never losing touch with the roots and adhering to a set of core values that is inviting. Habib Jewels, whose origins tracing back to a single shophouse of Jawi Peranakan architecture in the late ‘50s in Penang, has been under the stewardship of Dato’ Sri Meer Sadik Habib, son of the late Datuk Habib Mohamed Abdul Latif who founded the jeweller.
Having recently celebrated the jeweller’s 60th anniversary, Meer has been in the business for over half of its existence. Reminiscing how he got started in the business, he reported to the office at 9am on 16 January 1986, having arrived in Penang 6.30am a day earlier. “Till now I am still working,” the 55-year-old quips.
In order to grow, one has to bear risks and venture out of comfort zones. The jeweller did just that. “When we started in Penang, we were doing mostly wholesale at the time,” he add, “But at the same time, I realised that we wanted to go into retail. Retail was the way to go. KL was the place to be.” The same year, in November, Habib Jewels established its presence in KL and has never looked back since. Today, besides purveying its own creations, the group has also brought in international brands such as Hearts On Fire and Pandora to our shores.
Being an inquisitive person, Meer has always challenged himself on how he could be doing better. The betterment ofttimes buds from observation and realisation over the years, sown by the shrewdness of his late father. In conjunction with its diamond jubilee, he shares with Prestige Malaysia on the core values of the jeweller and how they have to come to nourish and shape every facet of its operation.
“Looking back to what my father did. He had a reputation of being sincere – meaning he would tell things people didn’t want to hear. Even though people might not like it, he would still say it because he was sincere. He wanted to do it out of betterment.
“He also had a reputation of being honest. One of the most important things in business is that you must have capital. The jewellery business requires a lot of capital. Even today, no matter how much business we do, we end up buying more goods. We keep reinvesting and buying more and more expensive jewellery. We do it out of passion.
“Suppliers would give him credit because they trusted him. What we realised is that the most important foundation of the business is integrity, honesty and sincerity. Apart from suppliers, customers are also very important.
“In Malaysia, jewellery buying is different from Europe. People go to Cartier, for example, for nice jewellery. They don’t think about investment value. But in Malaysia, people look at how much value they get when they sell it. Therefore, when we sell jewellery, there are two purposes. First is adornment. Second is investment.
“People who invest, they want to buy from someone they trust. Hence trustworthiness is another foundation of the business. They know that when they buy from Habib, they get the right gold and diamonds, the right quality and expertise.
“Unlike other jewellers, my father didn’t talk about sale. Instead we would try to understand our customers, what they want before coming up with suggestions. We are like consultants – not salespeople. There is a saying ‘hanya Jauhari yang mengenal Manikam’. Jauhari is the jeweller, the one who knows the gems. We need to be very knowledgeable about the business, what we do, the technical part of jewellery. We are advisers rather than salespeople who are trying to close the sales. We need to understand, not just about customers want, but about them as well so that we can give them the right advice. Everyone has a different taste. We are like friends.
“My children used to complain when they were young, they wanted to spend the weekends with us, but we would always be away for weddings. It was because we had built that sort of relationship with our customers. We became friends. We have a lot of friends in this business.”
THE JAWI PERANAKAN SHOPHOUSE WHERE HABIB JEWELS FIRST STARTED OUT IN PENANG