Almost oblivious to the current economic downturn, Da Vinci CEO Dr Doris Phua is expanding her furniture giant with the addition of more high-quality brands. She spoke with Aulia Rachmat during a recent trip to Jakarta.
Dressed in an elegant cocktail dress with subtle sparkle, Doris Phua presents a truly individualistic style. In the old saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” beauty for her, is where elegance meets style.
Impressed by classic European furniture, she has managed to expand her furniture business into something of an uber-lifestyle giant. Doris recalls, though, that one of her most challenging decisions was to embark on the expansion of her premium furniture business in China at a time when Asia was hard hit by the severe economic crisis in 1998.
Remaining optimistic despite encountering obstacles in penetrating China’s upscale market, Doris eventually opened a total of seven mega-stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen within the first three years of operation. More have since been added in prime locations in Chongqing and Chengdu, including another in Shanghai.
Asia’s largest upscale furniture retailer is still on the prowl. The opening of its recent 48,000 square metre flagship store in Shanghai last December demonstrates how China’s economic boom has opened the floodgates for the entry of high-end products into the country.
Doris adds that the opening of this third showroom in Shanghai, currently the company’s largest in China, also marks Da Vinci China’s 10th anniversary as well as the launch of the group’s new line of furniture brands, Da Vinci Luxury, which showcases a new collection of acclaimed fashion-inspired furniture.
Da Vinci now has 22 stores located in Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China, with yearly turnover of more than US$100 million.
Both innovative and something of a workaholic, Doris admits she has little time for taking holidays. (She has been known to spend more than 12 hours a day, seven days a week, at work.)
She sees travel as a necessity in order to help expand the business. Doris asserts, though, that being big, business-wise, doesn’t necessarily mean best. “Being the best is when a business has succeeded in establishing trustworthiness to the point that you can treat your customers as partners.”
As recipient of the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year 2001 award by the Singapore Small and Medium Enterprise 500 as well as Montblanc Businesswoman Award of the Year 2002, Doris appreciates the crucial importance of knowing one’s clientele.
“Indonesian customers are becoming more sophisticated, so it’s easier for us to introduce new trends,” Doris says, referring to Da Vinci Luxury, which includes the latest furntiture from high-profile fashion brands such as Versace Home, Fendi Casa, Kenzo Maison, Cerruti and Bottega Veneta.
Doris sums up Versace chic as “modern contemporary design with Italian styling.” Kenzo manages to mix minimalism with ethnicity by combining origami shapes with floral motifs. Fendi Casa, on the other hand, incorporates sinuous curves and sensual textures in its sofas, tables and beds.
As for Da Vinci Group, adding these renowned fashion brands is a way to build brand recognition among consumers who perceive the products as part of their lifestyle.
With a firm yet friendly hand, Doris says that she treats her employees as if they were her own children. “My long-term aim is to enable my employees to achieve their full potential. They become family members in the business and together we can grow.”
Doris reminisces that as a child she wanted to be a singer when she grew up. In spite of all her success, her desire to sing remains.
“I like to spend my spare time singing karaoke with my staff. You know, singing is a good way of relieving stress,” she says with a smile. “It’s a delight to see my staff feel their workplace is like a second home. This is one way to build a solid team that can introduce more innovation to the business.”
The business therefore needs to change constantly to meet customer needs. “Though we are already a player in the high-end market segment, we always strive to keep up with new trends,” says Doris, who likes to read psychology and motivation books.
Since 2005, Da Vinci Jewellery has lavishly pampered its upmarket clientele with a collection of watches and fine jewellery crafted from precious metal and gems. In order to highlight Doris’ know-how in selecting exquisite jewellery and timepieces, from 2008 the company renamed the brand Doris Vinci.
The Doris Vinci latest collection, Storia d’Amore, includes Marletto and Eternita rings. Crafted from diamonds, 18-carat white gold and black enamel, the luxury pieces, says the company, are a symbol of femininity, sophistication and luxury.
Published in The Peak Magazine Indonesia, May-June 2009.
Photos by Adi NW and courtesy of Da Vinci