Follow The Leader: Anan Fakhreddin, CEO, Damas
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"What really contributes in making a CEO a great leader is representing the brand values and the mission and vision of the company, and promoting these values across the corporate culture. These traits enable the organizational culture to be well-aligned and adaptable to market trends."
Anan Fakhreddin, CEO of Damas International Limited, and an executive member of the company’s board of directors, already had years of experience across the precious metal and gemstone industry sectors prior to joining the Dubai-headquartered jewellery company. Fakhreddin, credited with realigning the business, retail and product strategies of Damas, doesn’t shy away from the ever-increasing competition. Many global mainstay jewellery brands figured that the middle east was ripe for their wares and set up shop quite a long time ago, so how does Damas deal with market contenders for their client-base? “The success of a brand depends on its ability to adapt,” says Fakhreddin. “We also have to accept that competition will always be there. At Damas, the key to dealing with this is our aim to seek excellence in everything we do- especially when it comes to our consumer touch points such as products, shops, sales force, website, customer service, and providing true value as a brand.”
Providing true value, according to the CEO, means localizing international tastes and trends in jewellery, continuously innovating in terms of design, and keeping to the brand’s guarantee to deliver high standards of production and materials, which, in this case, are precious metals and gemstones. “Our clients have an eye for luxury and quality, and they know what to expect from a name such as ours. The search for new designs never ends; we examine the international fashion standards and adapt this for our Middle East clientele. Quality is [also] an essential part of our product offering and service proposition- we have enriched the idea of a jeweller to a jewellery retail concept that delivers high-end products and a wide range of collections to all of our clientele. We continuously research opportunities and trends that can help us grow, expand our offerings and engage with our key customer base.”
Prior to joining Damas, Fakhreddin acted as the Managing Director at the World Gold Council for Middle East and Turkey. For nine years in the GCC, he also served as the Director of Diamond Trading Company, a member of De Beers Group. His responsibilities for both of the aforementioned senior management positions included tactical market penetration to encourage consumer adoption of jewellery and increasing interest in the market both regionally and internationally. In 2011, his demonstrated leadership track in the sector saw him appointed Chairman of the Gold and Jewellery Group in the UAE, focused on promoting Dubai as an international frontrunner of the fine jewellery market. But promotion, especially in luxury segments, is often considered a double-edged sword. The delicate nature of marketing to a luxury client can be challenging- too much and you might cease to be considered an elite sought-after item, too little and your brand name may not attract the clientele that can afford your business’ luxury goods or services. “Damas markets its offerings at two levels; the first is the corporate level, which is constantly reminding our customers what Damas stands for. The second marketing level is collection specific, where we communicate products to a targeted audience creating awareness of these unique offers and driving sales for a wide segment,” Fakhreddin explains, citing a 2014 report that put total top of mind awareness for all segments at a whopping 92%.
For all types of businesses, it is important to reevaluate existing processes and procedures, then innovate to improve on the status quo, and Damas has acted no differently. “We recognize adaptability to trends as a key to success and decided to optimize two of our internal procedures, namely, inventory planning and our new product development (NPD). Today, our inventory system is a process that monitors the performance of all products based on which future merchandising is planned. Inventory can be kept at optimal levels without stockouts. The NPD represents a team of dedicated jewellery specialists who constantly monitor trends and purchasing behavior to ensure that the product selection at Damas is innovative and unique.” The company also went for a client-facing overhaul, and undertook remodeling efforts in 2013 to enhance shopping experiences and cater to perceived client interests. “We decided to remodel our stores by moving towards a two-store format retail strategy. Our Damas boutiques offer some of the most prestigious international brands globally, while Damas collections showcase a variety of innovative Damas brands and collections. Both store formats offer gold jewellery, diamonds and pearls in an array of high-end designs.
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“It actually depends on the nature of the entity. When we were listed with NASDAQ, communication with stakeholders was sensitive and had legal requirements. Now as a privately-owned company, our communication with stakeholders is more focused. In general, we always make sure that all stakeholders are fully aware of the developments that occur in Damas. Our policy is to maintain transparency; we have a very strong corporate governance implemented across the business supported by a transparency policy. Under these two umbrellas we conduct our stakeholder communication based on the business needs and our tools vary from reports to one-to-one meetings. At specific times, trade-wide meetings are called, similar to our meeting in Basel a couple of years ago to update our Swiss watch and jewellery suppliers on the recent developments in Damas.”
What are some of the communication strategies that you have found effective?