Sifr experiment pays off for Jamal Kazura perfume business

Mr Johari picked the name Sifr Aromatics because he wanted to start his shop with a clean slate. Sifr is an Arabic word meaning "zero" and the name is fashionably cryptic to most Singaporeans.
Mr Johari picked the name Sifr Aromatics because he wanted to start his shop with a clean slate. Sifr is an Arabic word meaning "zero" and the name is fashionably cryptic to most Singaporeans.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

One of Singapore's most well- known home-grown perfume businesses is the 84-year-old Jamal Kazura Aromatics, named after its second-generation owner Jamal Kazura.

The original shop set up by his father, Mohamed Hanifa Kazura, in 1933 was simply called Kazura.

But for Mr Johari Kazura, a grandson of the founder and son of Mr Jamal Kazura, it was becoming too famous.

Visitors were beating a path to its three shops in North Bridge Road and Bussorah Street, thanks to mentions in guidebooks, and Mr Johari was worried about "the loss of heritage, authenticity and knowledge".

So, in 2009, he opened an offshoot of the family business. It was called Sifr Aromatics. The name is fashionably cryptic to most Singaporeans. It is Arabic. It means "zero", because he wanted to start with a blank slate.

MORE LEEWAY TO OPERATE

If (the shop's) a failure, I can walk away from it, and if it's a success, I could more easily bring outside partners into the business, since it is not under my family's name.

MR JOHARI, on operating an offshoot of the family business that is a separate entity.

 

"I wanted a separate entity I could experiment with without using my family name," said Mr Johari, 42, adding that Sifr was more a "research and development platform for a heritage business".

At his shop in Arab Street, old is combined with the new. He revived some of the handmade products that his grandfather sold, such as candles, salves and balms, except that he uses organic butters and exotic oils like argan oil.

Operating under Sifr also allows him to experiment with the pricing of his products - the price of a bottle of perfume at Sifr is at least three times the price of that at Jamal Kazura - without upsetting his regular customers.

"If (the shop's) a failure, I can walk away from it, and if it's a success, I could more easily bring outside partners into the business, since it is not under my family's name," he said.

Melissa Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Sifr experiment pays off for Jamal Kazura perfume business'. Print Edition | Subscribe