Monday, November 01, 2010

Brazilian Surya.. Argentine Satya .. and Latin American Karma

Exporting Henna to India from Brazil ?... It sounds as incredible as exporting Caipirinha ( the strong Brazilian alcoholic drink which makes you dance Samba after two glasses) to Brazil from India. Clélia Cecilia Angelon, the founder President of Surya Brasil dared to think outside the box and has exported Henna powder to India. She started off with a shop in Sao Paulo selling Henna powder formulated with raw materials imported from India. To make it look authentic she named her company Surya Henna. This gave a touch of Indian magic and appealed to the Brazilians who are fascinated by Indian yoga, meditation and spiritual gurus. During my stay in Sao Paulo I had the opportunity to interact with Clelia. Once I saw her stall in a Cosmetics Fair which drew large crowds with Brasilian beauties tattooed all over their bodies with henna. I realised then that India was not only touching the Brazilian soul but also gave a touch to their skin. The combination convinced me that it was going to be a winner in business and win-win for India and Brazil.

As the sales picked up, Clelia expanded the business into other haircolouring and cosmetic products and dreamed of going global. She changed the name of her company into Surya Brasil. The company started the Amazônia Preciosa Line, enriched with ingredients from the Amazon forest biodiversity. The turnover of the company has now reached twenty million dollars. Surya Brasil has established its niche in the market as a cosmetic producer with natural and organic ingredients and eco-friendly. The company is exporting to twenty countries including USA, Australia, UK and France.

In an audacious move, Surya Brasil decided to export its Henna products to India . The marketing team of Clelia thought this was like a Brazilian trying to teach an Indian Guru. How would the Indian consumers living with a long tradition of Henna accept a Brazilian Henna product? How could a Brazilian company find a place in the space crowded by so many Indian companies in their home market? Clelia would not take no for an answer. She opened an office in India in 2005 and sent a marketing executive Fernanda Drumond who spent four years understanding the Indian market. Fernanda who has now become the head of India operations has achieved sales of 1.5 million dollars and plans to double it this year. She has placed the products in beauty parlours and stores in shopping malls in the major cities. Now she is reaching out to the smaller towns and cities. Surya Brasil plans to start a factory in India from which it will export to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia and other Asian countries. They also plan to open an organic SPA in India like the one they have in Brazil.

Surya goes beyond Henna in its India connection. The company´s website says ¨Surya is guided by Ayurvedic principles: know and respect individuality; pursue well being and both emotional and physical balance. ¨ Surya also uses Amla as an ingredient in some of its products. The website of Surya has a section ¨moment of meditation ¨.

They say, behind every successful man there is a woman. The secret behind the success of Clelia is a man… Indian man. Raj Malhotra had employed Clelia as a salesperson in his shop in London. Raj could not resist the Brazilian charm. He left his wife and married Clelia. She became Clelia Malhotra. They had a daughter Vandana. Raj lived for some time in Sao Paulo. After a few years, Raj and Clelia got separated. Clelia had other men in her life thereafter including another Indian Kanwaljit Singh.

Clelia´s story reminds me of the other story of the Argentine woman Monica Socolowsky who was inspired by Saibaba and went into the Fashion business using Indian fabrics and designs. Monica is a staunch devotee of Saibaba and her company is called as Satya Fashion. Here is my blog on Monica

So we have Surya in Brasil and Satya in Argentina. The other day I was asked in a TV interview,¨what is your Karma? ¨. I replied, ¨Latin America¨.