Alkhemy Brands- How to score big in Kenya’s beauty industry
Demand for quality products in the beauty industry is insatiable and that is the driving force behind Alkhemy brands.
According to the founder of the company, Paul Ng’ang’a, 35, quest to restore dignity for women and desire to create employment drove him to start the company that is already making an impact in the hair and skin beauty industry.
“I was driven largely by Dignity. I think its very important value to me…I want to give African consumers a high quality and well-designed products that answer to their needs fully, not products that are any less in quality just because they are meant for African consumers,” argues Mr. Ng’ang’a business graduate from the University of Nairobi.
He started Alkhemy brands in 2014 but hit the market in February 2015.
Despite the stiff competition from imported cosmetics, Ng’ang’a says his survival trick is pegged on quality and certification. Already the company has had its Mikalla brand certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
“You see if the product works without side effects then consumers will reward you with quicker adoption and I can see this happening gradually. Of course it is not unexpected, there is a lot of work and research that has gone into developing our products and even before we went to the market, we knew our Mikalla would be a winner.”
It’s only been 8 months now in the market and the feedback mostly from professional stylists and consumers who have had the opportunity to access and use the product has been amazing.
“We ensure that all our products are certified by the relevant authorities… to succeed in this industry I know we have to put the right foundation and invest in research and development,” reveals Lucy Savonge, Alkhemy Brands Chemical Engineer in charge of Research and Development.
“To attract clients in the beauty industry,” she says, “we take samples to top salons so that they can be endorsed by stylists.”
Ng’ang’a says the industry needs more African manufacturers who would develop products fit for Africans as opposed to relying on imported and often harmful products.
“You see, in most developed markets, you will find some ingredients that have been researched and found to be toxic over extended use have been banned from use in cosmetics and yet, you will find those very toxic substances being peddled in products that are sold here locally. –A good example is parabens. The question is why?” poses Ng’anga.
Targeting to create jobs
I believe work and gainful employment gives people dignity. That’s why I am in cosmetics today and very soon, food. I aim to create at least 1000 jobs before I am 40 years of age. I realize I can’t do it alone, but I can work with what I have and whoever is willing to make it happen,” says Ng’ang’a
Savonge says that the brand Mikalla has been tested and proven suitable for African hair care needs.
“I must say that we did not go into cosmetics blindly, we looked at all available opportunity, invested in the right equipment and people before making a move,” says Savonge adding that the cosmetics industry keeps growing as tastes and preferences shift.”
Available statics place the beauty industry at roughly 24 Billion, growing at between 8 and 11 per cent per annum.
“Discouragingly 60 per cent or more of the total cosmetics consumption in Kenya is foreign brands – some are totally misaligned from what African consumers need,” says Ng’ang’a.
“Another driving force is the opportunity presented in the rapidly expanding middle class in Kenya and Africa in general. – These people want to look good and feel good about themselves… I think we have some of the most beautiful women in the world we must give them some few aids to enhance their their social standing. I know the men will thank me later,” says Linda Bosibori, Brand Marketing Manager at the company.
The winning formula
We are pursuing a nourishing angle in product development and you will notice the use of a lot of essential oils and extracts in our products, similarly you will also notice a reduction and sometimes absence of certain raw materials altogether. We have studied what is good for the African Hair and skin and we are aligning to that, says Bosibori.
According to Linda Bosibori, Brand Marketing Manager at the company, the beauty industry is a very competitive sector with low value products that do not pay a lot of attention to quality standards on one hand and brands that have been researched tested and undergone very standardized production process on the other.
“The other problem is cheap imports smuggled into the country with no tax and levies paid and you have to compete with the same. Of course this makes the game rather delicate but ultimately the consumer who values quality will come on board and stay,” argues Bosibori.
With a current workforce of 24, Ng’ang’a says the company’s products are gaining prominence in the market because a lot of thought and research has gone into them.
Sourcing for raw materials
According to Ng’ang’a finding raw materials is a major headache since most must be imported.
“We are sourcing far and wide, – from South Africa, to Germany and the UK, – we get quite a bit of the raw materials from local agents representing companies in France, and Asia. We are also buying Uganda Shea Butter for some of our products,” he says.
However he argues that the company would wish to buy more locally if local manufacturers upped their game.
“We have coconut Oil in the coast, we also have a lot of biowealth which we can sustainably exploit to ensure a more wholistic growth, the problem is that the government policies are yet to enable for a competitive extraction of raw materials locally.
Locking out cheap imports
Mr. Ng’ang’a says the imposition of 25% duty on cosmetics and packaging is a plus for the industry but the government should tighten the noose on underground imports and underclarations.
“This will make local manufacturers more competitive, this means more jobs, better prices and value to consumers and in turn a booming beauty industry.
By James Ratemo