Established in 2009, the Indian cosmetics and body fragrance major Vini Cosmetics entered the Nepali market in 2011. With its flagship Fogg deodorant and perfume series, the Ahmedabad-based company has achieved tremendous success in the market in a relatively short period of time. Apart from Fogg, Vini is also doing well in other segments such as talc powder, creams and face powder, among others. Samir Bhattacharjee, director of Vini International FZE, oversees Vini’s business in over 50 countries of the world. He was recently in Kathmandu to inaugurate the branch office of Access Nepal Trade Link – the authorised distributor of Vini Cosmetics in Nepal. New Business Age caught up with Bhattacharjee to talk about Vini's business in Nepal, market challenges, expansion plans, among other subjects. Excerpts:
Vini has become a major market force in just around 8-9 years of its establishment. What are the factors behind this success?
Vini believes in brand power. We feel brand is any company's greatest asset which can’t be created by only pricing of products. Offering quality product is a must here. Consumers have been attracted to Vini products due to our effective marketing strategies that include unique TV commercials. The ‘Differentiation Strategy’ is the main reason behind our success. We always come up with products that are unique, compared to other brands.
How has been Vini Cosmetics doing globally in different cosmetics product segments? How much is the global turnover?
Fogg is our most selling brand followed by White Tone power and Body Mist. The unique ‘no gas’ concept is among the major factors contributing to the success of Fogg. Despite the intense market competition in Gulf countries, we are currently the third largest brand in the United Arab Emirates. We are also a big player in Nepal, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. It is primarily due to the strength of the Fogg brand that Vini Cosmetics has been valued at INR 40 billion by leading venture capital investors. We have already expanded Vini’s business to 52 countries. In 2017, the company’s international turnover was INR 3 billion. It was even bigger in India at INR 6.5 billion.
Fogg has been doing exceptionally well in the South Asian and Gulf countries. What is the company doing to further expand its market in the body spray segment?
We evaluate the demography before entering any market. For example, Dubai has over 80 percent Asians and westerners as residents. We have found the Gulf city to be a major market for Fogg and other Vini products. Next month, we are foraying into three new markets, namely Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Every year, we enter three to four new markets because we want to deliver the best products to new customers. In the meantime, we give our best to satisfy our customers in the existing markets.
We develop products by understanding the requirements of local customers through research. For instance, people in the Middle East prefer the Oud fragrance which is extracted from Agarwood. However, people in South East Asia don’t like this fragrance much because of its strong smell. In this way, we have developed products to fit the local requirements. Vini has been in the perfume segment for a very long time. Now, we are entering the skin care segment too.
How is the company engaged in product R&D? How much does it spend in R&D activities annually?
We don’t spend much on R&D. Basically we have been investing significantly in consumer research as the findings play important roles in the development of our products. One finding showed that consumers want more perfume than gas in the body spray bottle. We then introduced the Fogg body spray. All these insights have come from research. Many brands introduce products and go straight to the market. They often fail because the consumers don’t get the desired products.
What are the USPs of Vini products? How many products are there in Vini’s portfolio?
Foog’s USP of ‘No Gas’ has received overwhelming response from the customers the world over. We are pioneers in this particular concept which other deodorant makers have been following.
The brand names of our products are also very unique, simple and easy to remember. We recently launched the Pretty 24 face cream, and we are probably the first cosmetics company to debunk fairness related myths in our advertising campaigns. We have highlighted the fact that nobody can change their skin tones just by using a cream. One can only minimize or repair damages caused by aging and pollution but the skin tone is a constant. We have made a very bold statement that ‘whatever nature gave is the best’. I am sure that ‘pretty 24’ will be able to leave a mark like Fogg in no time. Vini has a portfolio of 65 different products, and all of them are available in the Nepali market.
Recently, Vini started the promotion of Prepair 4050 and 5060 skin regeneration creams for aged women. These products are quite unique compared to other brands. Can you tell us about the new products?
Prepair 4050 is for women of age group of 40 to 50 years. Prepair 5060 is targeted at the age group of 50 to 60 years. Aging is a natural process which cannot be stopped. But, it can be delayed by 5-6 years by using quality cosmetic products. The main problem today is that anti-aging creams of various brands come with a lot of chemicals that are harmful to the skin in the long run. We can assure that Prepair creams do not contain harmful chemicals.
What have been the main challenges for your company in recent years?
The duty structures and other regulatory issues have created difficulties in entering some markets. To mitigate these issues, we are looking to establish manufacturing units in different countries. We have one such unit in Egypt named the Vini Egypt Limited. It becomes easy if we start manufacturing locally. The market in Egypt is huge with the population totaling 180 million. We will commercially launch the products of Vini Egypt by March 15.
How do you observe the cosmetics market of Nepal? How has been your seven years journey in Nepal?
Vini Cosmetics forayed into Nepal in 2011 and it is our first international market. We achieved immense initial success here which gave us a lot of confidence to sustain our business.
When we entered the market, the prices of our products were a bit high, but the quality of our products was excellent. Thus, we were received warmly in Nepal. The initial successes in Nepal and Bangladesh helped us to move to other international markets. In Nepal, we command 30 percent share of the deodorant market. We are still growing here and have plans to enter the rural market too.
We can make our products more affordable to the people in Nepal. Nevertheless, the customs duty for importing cosmetic products is almost 42 percent here which is very high compared to some other countries. Also, if the government works to make an investment-friendly environment, companies like Vini can establish their manufacturing units here. Nepal can be a door for companies to enter the Chinese market as well. The entry to China via Nepal will be cost-effective for them.
It is often said that the market of Vini is affected in Nepal because of counterfeit products. What can the government do to stop such activities? What is your company doing about it?
Counterfeit products have been a big threat for many brands like ours in Nepal. Such products are harmful to the health of the consumers. Both the authentic brands and consumers are suffering from this illegal trade. The government needs to be very strict to tackle this specific problem. The customs points should be strictly regulated to stop the inflow of counterfeit goods. We have already written a letter to the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to urge the government of Nepal to do the needful.