AFRICANGLOBE – Pandora, the Danish jewelry manufacturer, has arrived in Brazil with force. There are shops in the main shopping centers of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and advertising in women’s magazines.
Reading an article this month I had a pleasant surprise. The CEO of Pandora in Brazil is not a professional who came from outside the country. She’s from here. And more: a woman. What’s more: a Black woman. Rachel Maia, 44, has a degree in Accounting, postgraduate from USP, with courses at Harvard and had already worked eight years at Tiffany.
127 years after the ending of slavery, we are still surprised when a black woman assumes the presidency of a big company. But we have walked a long road and achievements should be celebrated. So that one day, soon, any Brazilian girl, regardless of color, can realize the dream of having the career she wants.
The luxury market was not the first choice of Rachel Maia, 44, when she returned to Brazil 20 years ago. With a degree in Accounting, post-grad from USP and courses in Vancouver, Canada, and Harvard in the United States, the executive wanted to act in the industry but was hooked on this universe once the Tiffany & Co. arrived in the country.
After eight years in the company, she took over as CEO of Pandora Brasil with bold plans. In 2014, it opened 23 concept stores of Danish jewelry here, reaching 35 by the end of the year. The goal for 2015 is to double the number of units in the country, starting with Salvador (Bahia), which receives the second point of sales of Pandora on Tuesday (May 12) in Barra.
You are a pioneer in the luxury market in Brazil. How did you get involved in the segment?
I started quite by chance. 20 years ago, I lived in New York and always went to Times Square to see exhibitions. I liked Pablo Picasso a lot and one day I read on the internet that his daughter was in Brazil. She is one of the designers of Tiffany & Co, which was coming to the country. I got crazy and thought, I need to be there. I returned and saw the inauguration. It was the first AAA jewelry (high-end luxury rating) store in the country. Two months later, coincidentally or not, I was working at Tiffany as CEO.
How long did you stay?
I was at Tiffany for eight years and there I began my career in the luxury market. I had the challenge of applying the concept of a AAA jewelry store, one of the world’s largest, in a market where people still didn’t understand what was Tiffany. For me it was an excellent school. I would go five to six times a year to the United States, trying to explain what Brazil was and take care of an operation that was not very simple.
You have to import products, nationalize, apply the tax differences and sell the same dream that exists out there in Brazil with added value of 30%, 40%. Our difference was the care and installment. Last year, I was determined to seek new horizons. I studied outside (of Brazil) because I always liked to improve myself. After six months I was working at Pandora.
Pandora is the second largest jewelry store in the world, with 32 years of history, but arrived in Brazil only five years ago. How was the implementation of the brand and the concept of the company in the country?
It was a challenge, first because in the case of Pandora, it was bringing a brand name, while the other jewelry store was fully established. To initiate proceedings didn’t bother me, because Pandora has mastery in manufacturing, in the “storytelling” and that’s cool. I was charmed to be able to sell quality at an affordable price and be part of important moments in a person’s life.
The concept of bracelets and charms is a registered trademark of Pandora and made the brand reach 80 countries. Can you elaborate on that?
We have jewelry for every moment. The concept create and combine is the essence of the universe of brand name jewelry, a concept of personalization that allows women to create looks for every moment, from the day that she says: “I want to shine” and uses all charms of shine to the day which she is most emotional and elects those that tell stories.
Pandora Brazil has the fifth best service in the world. What is the secret, since we already know that this is a difficult issue around here?
Service in Brazil is really delicate, but you have to watch your team, invest in training and understand that that professional is representing you, is the star at the front of the store. If they aren’t shining, the brand also doesn’t shine. So I worried in a certain way about bringing Pandora to Brazil, offer affordable and desirable luxury (the charms start at R$75) not only because with the leading actresses of the novela (soap opera) and socialites, but because it’s also with the main hairdressers, manicurists. Everyone has the desire to have a jewel. I sell emotion with the glamour she requests.
How does Pandora’s operation work in Brazil?
All production of Pandora in the world is centered in Thailand. We have six factories and we are in the process of the seventh factory. We have over 6,000 employees. We launch seven collections a year, with 30 to 50 types of charms created by a team led by three designers. There are more than thousand kinds of charms, rings, earrings and necklaces. Just charms are between 500 and 600. Some, like the heart, the house and the little angel, have been in Pandora from day one.
We have inspirational, such as tambourine and slippers/flip flops, and one created especially for the World Cup, which is the map. It comes with the word Brazil written with an “s”. I was in Denmark watching the final details of the collection when they asked me if it would be with “s” or “z”. I said, “Come here, won’t I sell it in Brazil? So it’s with an ‘s’.”
Brazil has inspired already the designer, who created a charm for the World Cup
Last year it was difficult for the Brazilian economy, but great for Pandora, which went from 8 to 35 stores. How do you explain this performance?
It wasn’t a difficult year for the beauty segment, for jewelry. This segment cannot complain, and I’m not talking only of Pandora. I am part of some groups of Presidents and CEOs and we had a sustainable growth. We walk in the opposite direction of everything. For 2015, we have a very aggressive plan. We want to double the size of Pandora in Brazil, starting with Salvador, where we will open the second franchise in Shopping Barra. The first store is in Salvador Shopping.
What is the secret of success?
I believe that a happy person renders more. A happy person works in a lighter and positive way and, when you exude positivism, you emanate for everything. A happy person doesn’t bother you. I try to make everyone happy at work, I care about details like whether there is fruit for my team every day. It’s a small office with about 70 people. In total, outside the franchises they are about 300 employees. All are there because they feel passion for the work.
By: Gabriela Cruz