Having just recently celebrated Habib Jewels' 60th anniversary, Dato’ Sri Meer Sadik Habib sat down for an exclusive chat with Malaysia Tatler, during which he regaled us with tales of his childhood, growing up years, the rise and fall of the jewellery business as well as the values and beliefs he holds close to his heart. Here are some of the bits and pieces that stood out the most to us.
Getting To Know A True Gem: Dato’ Sri Meer Sadik Habib
1. Growing in the business
“When I was very young I remember, my parents were very hardworking. There was a time when we used to stay above our shop, which was a Jawi Peranakan shop house. We’ve restored it, and it’s more than 100 years old today.”
2. The happiness equation
“I liked to walk into the shops, maybe after school or when I’m free. There were always the laughter, the smiling and the jokes. People are always very happy in a jewellery shop. They come to shop, and they’re happy because they’re getting something new, they can finally afford some beautiful jewellery or to shop to celebrate something – a wedding or an anniversary.
"When there was a wedding, people used to bedeck themselves in jewellery. If they didn’t have any, they would rent – believe it or not. But my father used to say: ‘I want to be in the jewellery business because it’s always about happiness’.”
3. Giving parents a break
“It was just that I grew up watching my parents work very hard, and I wanted to give them a break. I thought of coming back, and helping them out and then think about what’s next. I was very single-minded about that. I remember when I first touched down from the US at 6am in the morning, I started working right after. That was January 1986. Haven’t stopped until today!”
"My father used to say: ‘I want to be in the jewellery business because it’s always about happiness'."
4. Sixty decades of stories
“I certainly feel very nostalgic, especially since Habib just celebrated its 60th Jubilee. We have had a little bit of time thinking about things, and what did we do before and what is it today and what will always be. The things that we saw, the values that we had, and the strong DNA of our existence, which we will uphold.”
5. Getting back up
“We’ve been cheated before, where one of the dealers had our diamonds switched during an exchange of goods. This was the time when we were planning on expanding our businesses. It was a substantial amount, and it was a big hit for us because almost our entire capital with which we started off was lost. But after going through that, we thought that we were going to work really hard to earn that money back. That’s when we started pushing and looking at many different angles. We did, and it worked!”
6. Becoming publically listed
“In 1998, we became the first public listed jeweller – at the most difficult time ever. There was a currency crisis in 1997 and that was when we got our approval, in the midst of it all. But you can imagine, the exchange rate was 2.5 to USD and it went to 4 overnight. These were some of the challenges we faced. We also had a lot of problems with the banks, which were supposed to be our underwriters. Most of them wanted to pull out because things have changed. But we went on and had a profit guarantee and estimation, which we surpassed that year.”
"We became the first public listed jeweller – at the most difficult time ever."
7. Passion first, profit later
“Whether the brand will become famous or super successful, the last thing on my mind is the profitability. I hate that. I never like to think about profit. Therefore, after becoming the first publically listed jewellery brand, I became very uncomfortable. It was all about pushing sales, profit forecasting, making announcements, missing your profit and having to explain… so many different things. I did not enjoy that. We subsequently sold our listed vehicle, bought back our company and became private again.”
8. Lessons learned
“It is not about the company or business, it is about the person behind it. That should be a good lesson for bankers; a lot of the time I feel that the bankers always look at the business, but they don’t look at the person behind it. Reputation is very important. That is also the foundation of our business.”
9. Predecessor’s success
“I have a very strange way of looking at success. I look at it this way: if I am personally successful, that’s because it is my parents’ success. So then, to me, if my children are successful in life, that means I have succeeded.”
10. Business philosophies
“The most important thing is the value and the foundation; I always go back to the integrity part of the business. You must also have the drive, passion and the skills to carry out a business. If you combine it all do things the right way, profit will come.”
Be sure to catch the full interview with Dato' Sri Meer Sadik Habib in our January 2019 issue!