DI­A­MONDS are FOR­EVER

HABIB JEWELS man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Dato’ Sri Meer Sadik Habib dis­sects the fab­ric of the jew­eller, writes justin ng

Prestige (Malaysia) - - HUSTLE -

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

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