The world of fine jewellery is a niche market based on man’s eternal fascination with precious stones and works of art creatively contoured to enthrall the discerning. HABIB has been at the forefront of this industry evolving from the late 1950s, to become a signature Asian jeweler synonymous with innovative designs. The story of HABIB is a story of an enduring entrepreneurial spirit spawning from a small business to the established conglomerate. Taking over from his father, Dato’ Sri Meer Sadik Habib steered the company into a leading player within the industry in Asia. In a conversation with Top 10 of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Meer spoke on his journey of executing a successful jewellery business based on the ingrained philosophy of gifting happiness to customers.
Dato’ Sri Meer Sadik Habib has spent years in the jewellery business from the tender age of 14 when he started helping his father. “My father started this business on his own in 1958 and it was only natural that I, being the only son, was trained to take over,” says Dato’ Sri Meer. “A plus factor is that my passion for jewellery and precious stones spurred my interest in the business.”
After returning from the US in the 1980s upon completing his business and gemology studies, Dato’ Sri Meer was ready to take the business to greater heights. “The business model was based on wholesale and I felt what was missing was the lack of engagement with customers. We did not really understand the customer’s retail pulse when it came to buying jewellery,” says Dato’ Sri Meer.
“I am an entrepreneur and I believe in taking risks that adds value for my customers and my business. I decided to reinvigorate the retail section by opening an outlet in the heart of Kuala Lumpur where the middle-classes converged. Moreover, the combination of innovative designs at an affordable price level was hugely popular.”
Dato’ Sri Meer recalls, “HABIB’s positioning in meeting the demand for discerning jewellery from a growing middle-class was successful.” The company has been successful in the retail sector and it is evident with the established HABIB brand, and 32 showrooms spread across the country. The innovative strategies in design through collaborations with Italian and American designers have been augmented with the introduction of the Pandora and Ice-Watch brands. Furthermore, the collaboration with Hearts on Fire, a Hollywood conscious brand, signifies the distinctiveness of the HABIB brand in diamond jewellery.
Dato’ Sri Meer embraces the values of trust and integrity. “Jewellery is a high-priced luxury item imbued with emotional appeal. We believe that trust in the product will sustain an everlasting relationship. We are not here merely to sell a product but act as consultants in advising customers on jewellery that bring long-lasting satisfaction. This is the core principle of my father which I uphold,” he explains.
The Habib Group is helmed by the family, along with Dato’ Sri Meer’s father, Dato’ Habib Mohamed Bin Abdul Latif as company chairman and Dato’ Meer’s wife, Datin Sri Zarida Noordin as Executive Director for the subsidiary jewellery manufacturing and franchising business.
Even though there is a greater work emphasis in Dato’ Sri Meer’s equation of work-life balance, he constantly ensures he spends quality time with his three children. Moreover, Dato’ Sri Meer is proud that his children are cognisant of societal values and obligations especially when it comes to helping out the needy. “The social services and projects that I hear them discussing tells me that they are in the right place,” he says with a smile.
A similar style of an open-management leadership style exemplifying trust and responsibility is practised within the company as well. This is no easy feat considering the company consists of some one thousand employees, spanning all three business sections that include jewellery, financial products and hotel services. For those interested in venturing into this business, Dato’ Sri Meer believes that his tri-fold mantra of passion, skills and commercial viability will be applicable.