Discover how the story of the Poncini was written
In less than a century, the Poncini family has created and developed an important
business in Mauritius and made a name for itself that constitutes today a major
reference in terms of luxury products. This family has played a key part in the industrial
development of the country over four generations, while keeping one of the main
Poncini shops, dedicated to luxury products, still active
The Guillemin group decided to open a trading post in Mauritius. They established their
branch in Port-Louis, in the now famous stone and wooden building with roof shingles that is right opposite the theatre. After selling a bit of everything for a while, they started to
specialise in the sales of luxury products.
Guillemin imported diamonds, jewellery, high-end watches, but also fine tableware, sculptures and paintings. Trading luxury products became so successful that Guillemin had its own shop built in the famous arcades of Curepipe in 1912, i.e. the very first high class commercial centre in Mauritius. At the same time, Guillemin recruited a Swiss watchmaker in order to be able to repair and look after its luxury watches,
including the famous OMEGA watch
An advert was published in the Swiss newspapers. Application forms were processed by the OMEGA firm and they ended up choosing Alfred Poncini, a Swiss citizen of Italian descent,
born to a family of fine watchmakers based in Lausanne. The chosen watchmaker did however present a major drawback: he only spoke Italian
Having learnt French, he also went on to become the Swiss consulate’s representative in Mauritius. He married Myriam Hily who bore him two children, José and Aldo.
Mauritius was still reaping the benefits of the global sugar boom, which meant juicy business for the Guillemin enterprise.
Alfred Poncini decided to send his eldest son José to pursue business studies in Switzerland. Unable to move because of the ongoing war, the young student would
use this as an opportunity to train as a watchmaker under one of his uncles’ supervision
But the euphoric “twenties” was followed by an economic crisis and the house of Guillemin went bankrupt. Alfred Poncini, the watch-making division manager, and Roger Mathieu, the optical division manager, then decided to take over and buy out the business
together, so that the new outlet became known as Mathieu & Poncini.
The new owners continued the established association with the various dealerships involved in watch-making, jewellery, tableware and the Guerlain and Jean Patou perfumes
They did whatever needed to be done to keep their commercial activities going during the war. However, despite their efforts to keep up with the image that the famous shop thrived to convey, they ended up having to sell pretty much anything and everything that could be sold
José Poncini returned home with bundles of certificates and new ideas, while his brother Aldo was about to leave to pursue his studies in France. José then bought out Mathieu’s share, and the company’s name changed yet again to become Poncini & Sons
The move towards independence brought with it a rather worrying economic
outlook for Mauritius. While maintaining his focus on the sale of luxury products, José
Poncini developed two ideas that would enable the family business to diversify its activities while keeping its main trading activity afloat. Indeed, the commercial activity was seriously affected by the amount of tax being added to the original cost of luxury products, i.e. almost 100%.
He decided to become the agent for a number of pharmaceutical products – particularly those from the Swiss brand CIBA – and for the special welding equipment called Castolin
that was in high demand in the sugar industry. These new commercial activities would enable Poncini & Sons to reinvest and develop new lines of business. These would
play a key part in the country’s economic development.
With a flair that would made him known as “the pioneer of industrial development”, José Poncini established business relationships with Swiss partners in order to launch Micro
Jewels on the one hand, while investing in the diamond cutting and polishing company LSP on the other, with Clément and Daniel Lagesse alongside Ian Sussens, a South- African, as partners.
The entire production was destined for exportation. Micro Jewels would be the first nonagricultural product to be produced in the history of Mauritian Business. The establishment of this production unit allowed the Mauritian authorities to set up « development certificates » that would go on to become the foundation of the industrial free zone. Other manufacturers, and particularly those producing textiles, would also follow this
trend and establish themselves within this framework.
Poncini & Sons also provided consulting services to a Swiss engineering firm that was responsible for installing electrical engines at the St Louis power station. Furthermore, the firm pursued its growth by launching a chemical division that would produce detergents under the brand name Cernol
While the industrial and chemical activities were providing the company’s main source of income throughout the seventies, its name again changed to Poncini Ltd in 1975.
Sometime later, the company realised that Micro Jewels and the diamond cutting operations were proving too costly and that it was better to sell up in order to refocus on the
jewellery and luxury products activities. The chemical division would also end up being sold in 2005.
Poncini Ltd then began to concentrate on exporting its manufactured products to the French luxury market. Throughout its development, the ‘maison Poncini’ (the house of Poncini) will have successfully maintained its distinctive trademark - that of a specialist in luxury products - by financing it through industrial activities
The re-orientation of the company’s activities towards jewellery and luxury products dates back to1988, when the then minister of finance abolished all taxes on that category of products. Poncini Ltd then turned the trade in luxury products into its main commercial activity.
It developed the « down town duty free shopping » concept, multiplied the number of big brands available in Mauritius, launched new shops in several luxury hotels and developed their jewellery making workshop. They began to offer the possibility of ordering unique and personalised jewels.
Following on the footsteps of José and then Aldo, the management of their family business was handed over to Christian. With him as director, Poncini Ltd has pushed its development further by modernising its activities. He has consisted in modernising the IT systems, developing the manufacturing side as well as the designs and collections, but also in exporting the company’s competencies. Poncini Ltd thus has a foothold in the Seychelles through a partnership agreement and is thinking of implementing similar type operations in a good few other African countries
Today, 4th generation management team of Poncini Fabio & Jérôme's is added