Precious Products

Michael Lindblad and his company Precious Products Jewelry Co. Ltd. belongs to the winners. Turnover in 2005 increased around 30 per cent and earnings with around 50 per cent compared with 2004. And Michael anticipates that 2006 will become a very profitable year too. Also; having had difficulties in upgrading their limited shop-house-situated jewellery factory in the outskirts of Bangkok, they can finally upgrade their factory license after all and take a breather, avoiding having to move to new premises. “It is not cheap to move a factory, and it is a lot of work.” Earlier Michael feared they would have to move. Now the administration can be moved to an adjacent building and make place for increased factory capacity.
Those are the positive sides Both the gold and silver have been fluctuating dramatically during last year causing some losses for Precious Pro-ducts. Together with price increases this made the pricing on silver items difficult before the first part of 2006. Add to this, a reported forecast that silver is due to reach a record high price this year.
“We don’t want to make losses caused by a declining US dollar or because of too high prices on fine silver, and additionally one can’t be too expensive as one then risks loosing custo-mers or receiving smaller orders,” says Michael who fears low inflow of orders when their capacity is once increased as the worst that could happen.
Michael, a gemmologist who learnt the goldsmith profession through friends, once had a shop in Gothenburg and started a wholesale operation, which caused him to come to Asia on business trips. He caught the interest in Thailand first of all when he many years ago got to see jewellery being made.
Then, on one of his trips, 20 years ago, he took a holiday to Koh Samui and met the Thai woman who later became his wife, Nok, who is a designer and art teacher, on the ferry over to the island.
Gradually he decided to move here and set up the business together with his wife. Now they employ 270 people and the future looks fairly bright with the opportunity to expand their capacity when needed.
Their focus lies on producing mainly high quality sterling jewellery silver in the medium to upper-end market.
“We focus on our own original design, and that’s what we have done from the beginning – with quality. We also design exclusively for customers abroad.” This is considered as the direction the whole industry must take in order to survive on the market – going from ‘Made in Thailand’ to ‘Designed in “Thailand’.
Trying to take the pulse on the industry it is clearly very fragmented and diverse, needing to serve a multitude of niche markets. And trends are changing with the wind.
Typically one of Precious Products’ challenges is, having to cater to 25 countries on various markets with their different trends and be able to satisfy all its clients.
Michael thinks it impossible to draw any firm conclusions about the future. “I think it’s very complicated and other things in society go somehow in the same way. In the times we are living, the globalization makes everything speed up. Also jewellery for many reasons; one is that with better communications you can launch something much faster than you could do before.”
Consequently Precious Products must be even faster: “You have to be one step before. Otherwise you will get big problems,” Michael concludes and tries to be prepared for such changes.
The jewellery business is in a state of rapid change where certain improvements are urgently needed. Higher efficiency will be a must to meet up to the demands with short time to market. Michael predicts two directions where the industry will go.
One is using a lot of machines, mechanics, sophisticated and automated production equipment etc. in order to standardise for very fast production with little manual power. The other is towards more quality, design and innovations in jewellery over all. Thus he believes the ability to develop and have flexibility in accommodating customer needs will be even more important in the future to come.
Then, creative and engineering designers and high-skilled craftsmen, combined with full utilization of high-technology, will be key elements to a continuing success. And these particular types of engineering designers “specialised technicians are much needed on the market but difficult to “find.
Whether it is wanted or not, the change is forcing Thailand to utilize its vast long experience and climb up further, leaving the low-end segment behind where competition from the competitors in other Asian countries is intensifying. Those successful believe in trends, quality and design. They want to be here also tomorrow.
Though, Michael points out that there are other aspects. “How easy is it to deal with Chinese instead of Thai people? There are many personal things in business also, not only price. Punctual deliver is very important. If we deliver late to our main customers, we are out.”
In that perspective one obstacle in Thailand is the problems the industry are having all the time with the customs.
“It is a very serious matter,” says Michael. “They should really try to make things smoother, because it doesn’t gain the country to cause difficulties for the producers here when you need to compete very strongly with China.” With the speed of things it is of course not optimal having products stuck at the customs for two weeks.
In Michael’s experience, increasing the level of education in general in Thailand is also highly important. “We suffer from that people have too low education in working situations. They also sometimes have to make decisions and do a lot of things that requires a bit higher education. And of course it would be good to have some centres for education in our industry, in order to more easily find skilled labour.”

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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