x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

World pearl marketing body on the cards

Demand for a unified marketing body exists and Dubai hopes to assume a leading role in its creation.

DUBAI // Dubai has offered to lead a global association to market pearls. Gaiti Rabbani, executive director for coloured stones and pearls with the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), said at the World Pearl Forum in Dubai today that there was a demand for a unified marketing body, and put the emirate forward to assume that role. "We in Dubai are very happy to use our neutral positioning to take the leadership role and develop the concept further," said Ms Rabbani. "I think what it requires is a working committee, and it needs commitment from the leading producers."

The forum, a two-day event hosted by the DMCC, brought together leading pearl producers and experts from around the world to discuss industry challenges, but also to position Dubai as a trading platform for pearls. About 200 delegates attended, including representatives from leading companies such as Paspaley Pearling Company of Australia and Mikimoto, the Japanese company that perfected the method for cultured pearls.

A common thread to the forum's presentations and discussions was the lack of a unified voice for the industry. TB McClelland Jr, president and chief executive of the Luxury Marketing Council for the Middle East, said it was a perfect time for such a push. "Right now, the brands that position themselves through collaborations and associations like this, as the financial markets come back up they will be positioned to be ahead," he said. "If you wait, you will be behind the power curve."

Tawfique Abdullah, the chairman of Damas Jewellery, said a marketing body for the gem was long overdue, and could help to double or triple the value of the current market. The global pearl industry is estimated to reach US$3 billion (Dh11bn) by 2010, according to DMCC officials. The Dubai market represents about $25 million, according to KP Baiju, chief executive of Buz Consulting, but will likely grow at an annual rate of 10 to 15 per cent.

Mr Abdullah said a unified association could also help to distribute knowledge across the industry. Creating awareness of pearls was a goal made more immediate by the economic downturn, he said. "I think it puts pressure on the top people to get together. If there wasn't this kind of situation, they wouldn't be talking to each other," he said. "But now they are." However, because pearl industry players are diverse - from low-quality pearls to high-end luxury products - it will be difficult to encompass the industry. Mr McClelland said another challenge could be funding.

"After the microphones went off, somebody said $25 million a year if you're going to do the marketing for these companies," he said. However, Mr McClelland said governments might invest in a global pearl association because of potential profits for their countries down the line. Ms Rabbani said it was difficult at this stage to discuss how the association would work and she was waiting for feedback before moving forward.

"I think the question of funding that came up earlier is further down the line," said Ms Rabbani. "I think at this stage, what we're looking for is time investment and strategic input." aligaya@thenational.ae