Legacy of Leadership

“No family member should be brought into the business without proper education and earning their place.”
Tawhid Abdullah, Chairman, Jawhara Group

From your family’s jewellery origins dating back to 1907 to establishing a strong brand leadership through Jawhara starting in 2013, you’ve had an exciting journey with some significant milestones. Please share the story of your family’s journey from being a family-led business to the giant operation that it is today.

My family’s journey in the jewellery industry has been a remarkable one, spanning generations since its inception in 1907 when my grandfather started a shop. My father later moved to Dubai and expanded the business, and at a young age, my siblings and I joined the family trade, as was the norm back then. We transitioned from a small workshop to a retail shop and eventually decided to expand into the wholesale sector.

To stand out and create a brand, we ventured into the chain store concept. We were one of the first among jewellery stores in the Middle East to venture into the chain store model which proved successful and helped us grow to over 500 retail stores worldwide. Along the way, we faced challenges and had to adapt to the changing landscape of the industry.

As we continued to expand and maintain our success, we encountered new challenges, especially with the emergence of corporate giants entering the jewellery market. However, our family-oriented approach and passion for the industry kept us connected to our customers.

It’s essential to groom the next generation through educational institutes and seek external help to ensure they are well-prepared. We should not assign roles haphazardly. For instance, someone studying law cannot simply join the family business and expect to lead marketing or design without proper training and expertise.

I firmly believe that no family member should be brought into the business without proper education and earning their place. They must be up-to-date with industry practices and prove their competence before taking on significant responsibilities.

You’ve built a brand – Jawhara – that is recognised as the fastest-growing Emirati jewellery brands in the region. What according to you are ingredients of the heady growth? What are the collateral risks – if any – of fast growth?

In my old company Damas, we had ambitious expansion plans, but now I have a more specialised focus. I have decided to target the Arabs, and Asian expat in Middle East separately due to their distinct tastes and preferences. We have started with local expansion, leveraging the trust we’ve built with our customers over the years.

I feel more comfortable and connected to the Arabic market due to cultural reasons, and it remains an important part of our expansion strategy. However, I also recognise the
significance of the Asian expats, particularly in the 22-karat segment. I learned from past experiences that without Asian buyers, our cash flow could suffer.

In the current landscape, competing with giant players is challenging, so our goal is to maintain a strong position within the community without necessarily aiming for the top spot. For the Arab market, I aim to be the number one choice for consumers within the next few years.

Overall, my family and I are looking forward to the future with a focus on delivering excellent service, value, and presentation to our customers across both markets in the Middle East.

We have learned the importance of embracing technology and marketing tools, enabling us to reach a broader audience with more cost-effective campaigns. Overall, our journey has been a mix of hard work, adapting to change, and balancing the tradition of a family business with the demands of a rapidly evolving industry.

Family businesses around the world often face the challenge of balancing between familial obligations and business compulsions. Can you share with us how you along with your brothers tackled some of these challenges while maintaining unity amidst diverse personal views?

I have a close friend in the UAE who is a successful entrepreneur with multiple institutes. I once asked him how many family members work in his 50,000-person institute, and he replied, “only one or two.” We have three family members working in our family business. We need to prepare and give the next generation ample time to shoulder the responsibilities that come with working in a family business.

I believe we should provide proper training and guidance to our family members rather than giving them positions solely based on the fact that they are our family. Putting untrained family members in critical roles can harm the foundation of the business.

How can newcomers in the industry leverage their technological resources and mobility to find more effective approaches and how can we learn from it?

Many young entrepreneurs worldwide are entering the gem and jewellery industry, utilising technology to design and create their websites and engage in internet marketing. The digital sales landscape has become even more crucial during the pandemic as people rely on the internet for various purposes.

However, some newcomers may become overconfident in their design abilities without enough experience, leading them to overspend and face challenges. But, there are also
many success stories, and I advocate for leveraging technology realistically, focusing on profit accumulation and responsible spending.

Inside a Jawhara Jewellery store

Excerpts taken from GIA India’s Legacy of Leadership Knowledge Series interview conducted live on Zoom. Attendance by invitation only. Register on collective.GIA.edu as GIA alumni to get notified about upcoming events.

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