Asia's Success Story
Rio Pearl: In a league of its own
2017/11/03
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Diamond and golden South Sea pearl jewellery set

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Golden South Sea pearl necklace

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Johnny Cheng, chairman and founder of Rio Pearl

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Johnny Cheng, centre, inspecting pearl oysters in Myanmar

Pearl specialist Rio Pearl has stayed ahead of the game for many years largely due to its unwavering dedication to hard work and innovation. The company has successfully integrated its wholesale business with pearl production over the years, with pearl auctions in Hong Kong now comprising majority of its operations.

Pearl specialist Rio Pearl has stayed ahead of the game for many years largely due to its unwavering dedication to hard work and innovation. The company has successfully integrated its wholesale business with pearl production over the years, with pearl auctions in Hong Kong now comprising majority of its operations.

Rio Pearl of Hong Kong is undoubtedly at the forefront of a new era in the pearl business. Now a vertically integrated company with a substantial focus on pearl production, it has held four successful pearl auctions in Hong Kong over the past 12 months.

More than 900,000 pearls were traded at the auctions, translating to about US$22 million in revenues.

“Our company has invested a tremendous amount of funding and time over the past 10 years to create world-class pearl farms in Myanmar. It has been quite a journey to learn how to cultivate South Sea pearls since these are the most difficult to cultivate,” revealed Jonathan Cheng, director of Rio Pearl.

A key ingredient to Rio Pearl’s success is the drive to triumph – a common trait shared by the top management and the staff. Auction preparations put an enormous strain on Rio Pearl’s workforce, particularly the sorting of pearls, which takes time, patience and experience, noted Cheng.

“I always let our staff know that our boss is working harder than all of us. My parents, Johnny and Rebecca Cheng, are an inspiration to us all for their unceasing will and determination to bring the company to new heights,” noted the company official. “Luckily, our staff has the same drive to succeed.”

Overcoming challenges

Cheng shared that about five years ago, his father and their business partner George Lee, started cultivating on a new farm in the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar despite warnings that it could fail. True enough, the first two years yielded no results and Rio Pearl suffered a hundred percent mortality rate at the new farm.

“My father and George investigated how they could cultivate successfully on this farm since they strongly believed the ecosystem was suitable for pearl cultivation. After two more challenging years, we finally had our first small harvest in 2017,” remarked Cheng.

Legacy

After joining the company in 2013, Cheng recognised that this was only the beginning of a long and possibly challenging but overall fulfilling journey.

“I believe in the goals that my father and I sought to accomplish when I left my career in the banking industry. Even when the road becomes rough, I try not to lose sight of the dreams that we’ve both set from day one,” stated Cheng.

Going forward, Rio Pearl aims to strengthen its pearl auction division. At the moment, the company’s business is divided into pearl auctions and jewellery manufacturing. Given the slowdown in its jewellery manufacturing operations due to weaker markets in the US and Europe, Rio Pearl has downsized its factory staff.

“This has actually been a blessing for us as we cut certain orders that we felt were not contributing enough to our overall business. We’ve had more time to focus on creating significant pieces, leading to a few extravagant necklaces being produced, including our Paua Pearl Collection that we launched this year,” noted Cheng.

The company executive said he expects the market to perform considerably better than last year, with business picking up significantly during the third quarter of 2017.

“We should see positive results throughout the fourth quarter of this year. Pearl prices have been quite strong, and this trend should continue into 2018. The year 2018 is very important for us as well as we are hoping to finally have a larger breakthrough in terms of pearl cultivation. We are hoping for strong colours and rounder shapes, but pearling is very difficult to predict,” disclosed Cheng.

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