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Malabar to focus on penetration, product and operation: Chairman

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M P Ahammed, chairman of Malabar Gold & Diamonds shares insights on the jewellery retailer’s growth strategies, customer engagement tactics and expansion goals

Bengaluru: Originating from a humble 400 sq. ft. jewellery store in Kerala, Malabar Gold & Diamonds has grown to achieve global acclaim, boasting 340 retail outlets in more than 14 countries. Over its three-decade journey, the brand has shrewdly capitalised on the decentralised structure of India’s jewellery industry, turning it to its advantage.

The Calicut-based company that boasts an annual turnover of $5.2 billion is ranked the sixth-largest jewellery group in the world and holds 19th place in Deloitte’s Luxury Goods global ranking. It employs 22,000 employees from 26 countries and intends to increase its workforce to one lakh in the next three years.

The company also has 14 wholesale units, in addition to offices, design centres, and factories spread across India, the Middle East, the Far East, the UK, the USA and Canada.

In an exclusive interaction with IndiaRetailing, M P Ahammed, chairman of Malabar Gold & Diamonds shares insights on the jewellery retailer’s growth strategies, marketing efforts, customer engagement tactics and expansion goals.

Edited excerpts…

What is the story of Malabar Gold & Diamonds?

Although my entrepreneurial journey began in 1979 with a spice trade venture, it was the establishment of the first jewellery shop in Kozhikode Kerala in 1993 that changed the course of my career as an entrepreneur.

There is a real-life story behind the launch of Malabar Gold & Diamonds. The story goes like this: A retailer in Mumbai who owed a sizable amount to me pledged to repay his dues by selling his brand. That incident made me aware of the market value of an established brand. I conducted extensive market research and found that the jewellery trade, being unorganised, set the stage for launching a jewellery brand based on the tenets of transparency, quality standardisation, fair pricing, and design innovation.

I approached my relatives with the plan to launch a jewellery retail store and managed to raise initial capital by liquidating assets. That’s how the journey began, and since then, our determination and collaborative spirit have been driving us forward.

Top strategic priorities for now…

In the coming years, we will concentrate on three key pillars: market penetration, product development, and operational excellence.

One of our key focuses is to further expand our retail presence both in India and abroad. Our goal is to reach new markets and ensure that our brand is accessible to a wider audience. In the organised jewellery retail segment, the domestic market remains underpenetrated, and globally, our mission is to ‘make in India and market to the world.’ Therefore, we will continue to expand our retail network.

Secondly, we are working towards diversifying our product portfolio to meet the evolving sensibilities of consumers. Alongside traditional designs, we launch a lifestyle collection like the everyday jewellery brand Zoul.

Building long-term relationships remains central to our strategy, fostering loyalty and satisfaction in every interaction. To achieve it, we also emphasise investing in talent development and empowerment. By nurturing a skilled and motivated team, we ensure each member contributes to realising our vision, and setting new standards of excellence in the global marketplace.

How do you enhance customer experience?

We strengthen engagement through exclusive promotional offers and customer loyalty programs, which include special previews of new collections, discounts and priority services, fostering enduring connections with the clientele.

To align with changing consumer behaviour, we have invested in enhancing our online presence. Complemented by engaging social media content featuring stories, style tips and behind-the-scenes glimpses, these initiatives aim to boost sales and revenue.

In addition, our product discovery initiatives, both in-store and on social media, have been pivotal in engaging the audience.

Tell us more about your marketing strategies.

Whether at our stores or on social media platforms, we prioritise creating a captivating product story. Over the past couple of years, we’ve elevated our product storytelling that stands out in the industry.

A crucial aspect of our approach is the regionalisation of content, ensuring cultural relevance to our diverse customer base. We’ve emphasized this strategy to the extent that all our digital marketing campaigns, even those with a pan-India reach, are planned and executed at a hyperlocal level.

Recognizing the diverse customer segments in each catchment where we operate, we customise the product experience, narrative style of content, and media choices to align with the dominant customer personas of that specific region.

Our ‘Brides of India’ campaign, which illustrates brides across regions, is a prime example of that approach.

Do use technology for this?

We prioritise customer experience during both sales and service interactions by utilising Salesforce. For sales interactions, we employ net promoter score (NPS) while service interactions are evaluated using customer effort score (CES).

To gauge customer sentiment and measure favourable outcomes in our customer experience metrics, we leverage social listening tools such as Konnect Insights. This allows us to conduct sentiment analysis, track Google Review scores and monitor social media engagement responses. We also monitor and optimise our digital media spends, which are meticulously tracked using the Rebid platform.

In the realm of influencer marketing, we use the Hypeauditor tool to screen influencer options. This approach ensures that our influencer marketing efforts are impactful and resonate effectively with our intended audience.

Which product category is getting the highest demand?

Gold being an integral part of the socio-economic ethos of our country, gold jewellery always dominates the demand spectrum. However, with the evolving sensibilities, the demand for diamonds, precious gemstones and platinum is also witnessing growth.

How do you select store locations?

We apply a few yardsticks to select locations to open stores—access to a larger customer base, strategic advantage of allocation, catchment areas and economic growth prospects. Our expansion plans include both metro and non-metro cities.

What are your expansion plans for now?

Currently, we are planning to open 10 new stores, aiming to reach a total of 350 stores globally by the end of March. This expansion drive includes opening stores in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, and Puducherry.

On an international level, we have showrooms in several countries: UAE, Australia, Canada, Bahrain, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the US. As part of our strategic growth initiatives, we are actively in the process of expanding our operations into new international markets, including the UK, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, and Bangladesh.

To drive global expansion, we leverage our global hub at Dubai Gold Souq, which plays a major role in enhancing operational efficiency. This approach not only supports our entry into new markets but also strengthens our presence in existing ones.

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