Name : Thiri Mon Mon
Position : Founder of Golden Bell Jewelry
Please tell our readers the story about Golden Bell (GB).
I founded the Golden Bell Jewelry in 1996 opening the first shop at Gem Museum in 1997. After I joined jewelry international trade fairs in 2004, I found out that our jewelry products could not enter into the international market due to the weaknesses in design. I expanded from being a purely trading retailer to production in 2007 because social culture of customers had changed into design sensitive culture. With the new technology, I could make innovative designs and mass produce with limited human resources. We gained high market share and many opportunities till 2010 because of having few competitors. However, retailers turned to becoming goldsmith in 2011 and since then I faced aggressive competition. Now, I am running three main businesses: jewelry, goldsmith and merchandising of diamonds. We seems to notice most of your customers are foreign.
What is the proportion of your products purchased by foreigners?
The very first targeted customers of Golden Bell are tourists. In 2003, we switched our target market to the expatriate organizations in Myanmar due to the economic conditions. Local customers also have become loyal customers with high repeat business. The ratio of foreign and local customers is currently 50:50. How do you manage to secure many international customers? The key factors to secure many international customers are transparency, assurance and customer satisfaction. I got many new foreign customers due to word of mouth recommendation.
In 2006, substitutional stones came into market due to scarcity of natural stones. At that time, I provided my loyal customers with full product knowledge. I could give assurance to my customers that there is no substitutional stone in every single piece of my products. Moreover, I learn everything about jewelry in detail to be knowledgeable.
In terms of products, which types are most popular among locals/ foreigners?
Every foreign customers buy ruby and Chinese customers typically buy jade. Local customers purchased mostly diamond from 2007 to 2012. Due to stone scarcity, they are now buying rubies, sapphires and color stones since last year. How would you describe a perfect jewelry? There are three main determinants to be a perfect jewelry. The first one is being neat, beautiful, durable and convenient to wear. The second one is standardization of quality. The third one is quality control depending on the composition of different metals.
Where is the trend on jewelry products heading?
Fashion of jewelry products is heading towards Tassel design, stone towards semi-precious and color towards yellow gold. How has the slowdown in economy affected your business? As our jewelry products are luxury goods, our business is immediately affected by the slowdown in economy, political changes, scarcity of stones and inflation. Sales for international market is still stable. However, local customers view jewelry products not only as ornamental but also for investment. Sales volume since 2015 significantly decreased due to high competition. Sales in 2016 and 2017 increased somewhat but I suffer economic downturn starting from 2018.
Business risks also depend on the external factors such as inflation and imbalance between demand from customers and supply of stones. How do you think locally manufactured jewelry items can be competitive in the regional markets?
Jewelry industry have been upgraded to compete with international markets because goldsmiths now have the technology and skilled labor. We have the strength in respect of stones and the weakness in respect of mindset in labor. If I have $5,000 what product would you recommend? I would recommend Pigeon Blood Ruby. Why do you think people should buy from GB instead of the other jewelry shops out there? I give one stop service and customization to my customers. I draw the design, calculate the price, adjust the customer’s needs and wants within their budget and explain to them the strength and weakness of the products.
What is your opinion on the overall jewelry market in Myanmar?
All people in the industry know the depth of the production and the future trend. However, we do not have marketing power. Although we know the production technology and the place that the machine is available from, there is not sufficient demand in local market.
What is the biggest challenge facing your business in the foreseeable future?
Why is that? If the scarcity of stones is continued to increase, transactions will be difficult because of insufficient supply. I cannot expand my business due to the lack of local purchasing power. The main risk is in inventory management. If you could make one change in government policy, what would it be? I want to suggest the government to consider for the sake of the local jewelry traders, for their survival. While we are applying to be free from the input commercial taxes and it is not taken into effect, yet. Diamond and emerald (foreign imported stones) are not subject to these. We want fair competition.[/paypal]