Alor Setar – It was a criticism that drove Sardi Dahar to create a “songkok” that would become a former Prime Minister’s favourite.
The 55-year-old songkok-maker who had been in the business since he was 18, was once told by a customer that his songkok was no different than any other.
Since then, he was determined to create a songkok with a difference.
After several failed attempts, he finally came up with a songkok design in 2002 that has captured the interest of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed.
The songkok is today known as the “Songkok Style Tun.”
MAINTAINING GOOD WORKMANSHIP
Dr Mahathir has been a client of his business in Pekan Rabu, here, since the time of his late father, Dahar Dato.
“It was in 2004 that I thought of branding the songkok as ‘Songkok Style Tun’ and using an image of Tun on the packaging. I wrote to him seeking his permission.
“He consented but reminded me that it meant that I would always have to maintain the product’s quality. I have always heeded Tun’s advice as the product bears his name“, said Sardi.
He intends to expand his business by opening up a factory to increase production.
“I am currently working alone so I can only produce in small quantities to ensure good workmanship on each.
But I am certain the ‘Songkok Style Tun’ is capable of penetrating the Indonesian and Singaporean markets“, he said.
AN INHERITED CRAFT
The third of seven siblings inherited his skill in songkok-making from his late father who hailed from Bukit Tinggi, West Sumatera, Indonesia.
His father started the business in the 1930s.
“I have been observing my father making songkok since I was a child, and ventured into the business when I was 18, right after finishing my secondary education“, he said.
Sardi said he was the only one among his siblings to inherit the skill and hope to pass it down to his only son, who was 30 years old.
“I have been doing this on my own until today, and I hope my son can continue the legacy of his late grandfather“, he said.
BEST BUSINESS NEAR RAYA
Sardi said he experiences the best business in the month before Hari Raya.
“The orders I receive in the fasting month can exceed 300 units, and that is way more than in other months. I cannot commit to more orders because I am working alone. It takes me over three hours to complete just one songkok“, he said.
Some of his long-time customers who are cognisant of his situation would place their orders from the beginning of the year.
Sardi himself would stop taking orders a week before Hari Raya so that he could complete the orders on time.
He said there was a high demand for his songkok, locally and overseas.
“The four main attributes of the ‘Songkok Style Tun’ is that it is light, finely sewn, foldable and does not easily shrink. The embroidery on the inside is of a star and 15 stripes, in threads of two colours“, he said.
Sardi said at RM120, his songkok was more expensive than the usual ones that retail at RM75 a unit. However, those who have bought it attest to its good quality.
Until today, there are orders for the “Songkok Style Tun” from dignitaries such as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom.