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Fredrik Widell

Managing Director | 18 Aug 2008

We feel that today the middle class has truly emerged in India. The Indian woman is ready to take on challenges and be independent. We are sure that we will achieve our targets by growing at a pace far more accelerated than ever before. We have seen double digit growth and we expect this trend to continue this year as well. We have invested substantially in India and view the country as one of the strongest emerging markets in Asia.

A native of Sweden, Fredrik Widell is an international management and marketing specialist from Schiller International University, London. He began his career as Manager of a leading restaurant chain in the UK. In 1998, he returned to Sweden as Business Development Director of 7-Eleven, prior to joining Oriflame Cosmetics as Managing Director for Sri Lanka and Vietnam in 2003. Widell joined Oriflame India in 2007 after providing a successful turnaround in operating sales and profits in both Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

He has devoted significant time in contributing to the direct selling industry and envisions India to become the biggest market for Oriflame International by providing the best natural Swedish beauty products at affordable prices all over the country.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha, Widell shares his vision for Oriflame in India and the direct selling market in general.

Q. How has journey been over the years?

We were the first international direct selling company to enter the Indian market 12 years ago. At that point of time, there was a lot of hype about the emerging middle class in India. We feel that today the middle class has truly emerged in India. The Indian woman is ready to take on challenges and be independent. We are sure that we will achieve our targets by growing at a pace far more accelerated than ever before. We have seen double digit growth and we expect this trend to continue this year as well. We have invested substantially in India and view the country as one of the strongest emerging markets in Asia.

Q. Could you share your marketing plans for India?

Oriflame is launching 348 new products in 2008 and half of them have already been launched. We actively organise and participate in large scale consumer awareness events. We plan to increase print and radio visibility of the Oriflame brand. We also plan to increase the number of pages in our catalogue from the current 78 to 100. We have also increased our sales activities and come out with better campaigns.

Q. Could you elaborate on the direct marketing concept of the brand?

Through the direct marketing concept of the company we have been able to penetrate deeper than conventional organisations due to personal dimensions and word of mouth referrals. With a plethora of choices available in the market, it is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to make a purchase without external help. The challenging economy has compelled more Indians to seek sources for alternate incomes. Direct marketing thus continues to make a strong progress. Oriflame has two diverse offerings – one is natural Swedish cosmetics and the other is income opportunity. This makes the brand unique. Thus, through the direct marketing concept, we have inculcated a strategy to first educate the consumers regarding the benefits they can derive from both the products and then influence them to buy our products.

Q. What are the new Oriflame products that you are planning to introduce in the Indian market?

We are planning to introduce Time Reversing Hand Cream, Dermo Professional Power Correcting Eye Patches, Optimal Time Relax and Lift Expert under our skin care range. Our colour cosmetics range includes Kiss Proof Lipsticks, Lash Extreme Mascara. Under toiletries we are looking at launching Silk & Smooth Hair Removal range apart from expanding our existing body care range et al. We are also expanding our fragrance range.

Q. How are you positioning yourself in the Indian market?

We are a focused beauty brand, which is gradually expanding its roots in India through our direct marketing concept. Our products are developed and formulated with the objective of providing a customer with quality, high performance and safe products while striving to minimise any negative impact on the environment. They combine the best of science and wisdom of nature. None of the products are tested on animals and are guaranteed to be pure and safe.

We also provide high quality natural Swedish cosmetics at an affordable price to Indian consumers. Apart from this, consumers get free beauty tips from trained Oriflame beauty consultants. Consumers can shop conveniently, get invited to many get-togethers and buy products at the catalogue price.

Q. How well has the Oriflame-framed friend-to-friend marketing strategy succeeded in India?

Oriflame works on the direct selling business model, operating on the principle of selling products from friend to friend. Oriflame products are not available over the counter. The consultant is, therefore, the interface between the company and the consumer. Oriflame considers its consultants its assets and constantly invests in their training, orientation and development of their leadership skills apart from other motivational initiatives. These consultants educate the target consumers and drive their purchase decisions. Positive word of mouth also plays a key role in building our brand image and in increasing our user base in India.

Q. What is the global brand building strategy of Oriflame?

We are amongst the top 10 direct selling companies in the world. In the cosmetics category, we are market leaders in 30 countries of the 60 in which the brand is present. Oriflame is the leading brand in countries like Russia and Indonesia. Women here are more ready to accept opportunities to become independent. In fact, we see a similar trend in India, despite the country being bound by tradition and culture.

Q. As a cosmetics player, you are a low-key advertiser. Why is it so? Any plans to step up your advertising?

Oriflame has never focused on advertising its products to its target consumers. We believe that positive word of mouth and educating the target consumers can drive their purchase decisions more than advertising. At present we don’t foresee any advertising plans down the line.

Q. How do you plan to fight competition from the top cosmetic brands?

Being a direct selling cosmetics company, Oriflame faces competition from various categories. Avon and Amway are the primary competition. Among retail cosmetics companies, Revlon, Lakme, Maybelline, and L’oreal are our chief competitors.

We have more than 649 products in our portfolio, and offer a skincare heritage of more than 40 years with patented technology like Derma Adapt.

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