Spearheading one of India’s largest jewellery chains is a man who began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 20 with a trading business in spices. MP Ahammed, the founder and chairman of Malabar Gold and Diamonds set up Malabar’s first store, a 400sq ft shop on the busy streets of Kozhikode in 1993. Twenty-nine years, 250+ stores and 10 countries later, today Malabar is one the world’s largest Indian jewellers. We spoke to him about his journey so far, what he believes in and what the future for his company looks like. Excerpts from the conversation:
What is your mantra for building a successful business?
I believe that winning the confidence of the people specifically of the customers, is most important. It is not the first step. But, it should be your mantra to build your brand or make your business successful. Commitment, transparency and quality of the product are the pre-conditions for winning the confidence of the customers.
So, the mantra to build a successful business is not about chasing profitability. It’s about taking the society along the journey and positively impact the lives that are associated with the business.
Malabar recently announced an investment of Rs 800 cr for its retail expansion, how do plan to grow the business? Is there a particular market segment you’re looking at capturing?
We have more than 280 showrooms in 10 countries. Our goal is to become the number one jeweller in the world. We want to grow our business maintaining transparency and customer trust and building a deeper understanding of different markets. 'Manufacture in India and Market to the World' is our motto. We are aggressively exploring export potential by expanding our manufacturing facilities and production in India. As part of the expansion programme, we will be setting up a gold refinery in Telangana with the wholehearted support of the government of that state.
The past decade saw a huge rise in investments in mutual funds, equity and crypto assets. Do you think consumers are moving away from investing in assets like gold and choosing other options?
Gold has a huge socio-economic relevance in our country. We know that it is a hard currency the world over. It also comes with immense investment value. Therefore, people of the country will continue to invest in gold.
You were the forerunner in bringing hallmarked gold jewellery to Kerala in 1999. How do you think hallmarking changed the industry, especially since the industry was hugely unorganised back in the day?
It is true that hallmarking has standardised the gold jewellery retail trade. It has also strengthened the customer trust on the trade. However, hallmarking has not been implemented fully. Still a major chunk of jewellery is being sold without hallmarking, not to say about HUID. What the government must do is to ensure large-scale compliance to the hallmarking regulations.
What is your take on the introduction of the Unique ID in the hallmarking system?
It will benefit the trade by making the transactions transparent. And it will contain illegal transactions in the sector and the government will benefit by way of increased tax revenue. I am aware that there are fake HUID markings for hoodwinking the government and evading tax. The government must seriously look into this aspect.
What lessons have you learnt over the years in your entrepreneurial journey?
If you trust customers, they will stand by you. And don’t settle for anything less. Always go for something bigger.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Success comes to those who are willing to learn from their mistakes and shortcomings and adapt to the world around them. Always be true to your commitments to society and the customers. You should give back to society for what you earn from it. In other words, you should always be responsible for every aspect of the business: responsible to the nation, responsible to the society and of course, responsible to your customers.