Entrepreneur

2 M’sian Ex-Engineers Started A Deodorant Cream Biz After Noticing The BO Issue At Work

Author’s Blurb: I started using deodorants when I was in secondary school, and initially tried Rexona’s deodorant spray. It didn’t exactly work that well for me because I realised I still smelled a little every time I sweat, but I thought I was the only one. It was within a year that I switched to a salt stone deodorant that this was no longer an issue anymore. 

Syaiful Afzal shared a similar experience with commercial deodorants.

Previously an engineer in a manufacturing company, his job required him to be physically active.

Though his workplace had air-conditioning, Syaiful and his colleagues in the office still had body odour whenever they sweat.

So, Syaiful decided to take matters into his own hands and came up with a DIY deodorant cream for himself.

“I looked up ingredients that are good for skin, antibacterial, etc. I ended up buying a bunch of different oils and ingredients, mixed them, and tried them on myself till I got a rough idea of what effectively stopped me from stinking when I sweat,” Syaiful shared.

When he started DIY-ing his own deodorants, they were just in the form of raw oil and grains that he’d have to stir well before applying on himself. 

“I started using it regularly just for myself and my wife noticed the positive outcome. She thought my ‘potion’ was incredible.”

Sharing The Potion With Friends

Upon realising the effectiveness of his homemade deodorant, Syaiful approached his close colleague who is now his business partner, Saifullah, to start Veri Natural in 2016.

“Our goal was to solve one thing, which is BO.”

During their R&D, they gave out a bunch of free samples to mostly active people such as gym goers, yogis, and the youth. 

In the process, they came up with hundreds of prototypes until they finally found the one that they’re using today for all their products.

The current formula was the one they found that has the best texture, which is a long way from mixing oil and grains for a deodorant. 

In the process of making the deodorant / Image Credits: Veri Natural

Until today, they still retain the same formulation they found 4 years ago in their products. 

New To Malaysia, Old To The World

Though Veri Natural is one of the pioneers in bringing deodorant creams to the market, this concept was actually introduced over a century ago.

The first commercial deodorant, known as MUM, was introduced in 1888 by an unknown American inventor in Philadelphia.

It was sold as a wax-like cream using slightly antibacterial zinc oxide in a small jar, much like other deodorant creams today.

As of now, Veri Natural has only one line of products, which are their deodorant creams.

They come in five different scents, with the most popular one being their Tea Tree Lemon Deodorant Cream.

Five scents, one formulation / Image Credits: Veri Natural

All 5 of these products are priced at:

  • RM49.90 for a single deodorant (30ml)
  • RM89.82 for a duo pack
  • RM119.76 for a trio pack

Each deodorant pack can last the user about 2-3 months.

Their direct competitor, Hello Natural Co., started around the same time as well with deodorant creams as their first products.

However, Hello Natural has introduced other lines of products such as skincare and hair products into their brand. 

Recently, they also launched a durian-scented deodorant cream which could be seen as a marketing tactic both in terms of ridiculousness and for that local touch.

While this is a common strategy for brands to stay relevant in competition, Syaiful and Saifullah believe in other strategies to stay competitive.

Focusing On Excellent Customer Service

Having lived in Japan for 4 years, the most memorable experience Syaiful had there was their top-notch customer service on a daily basis with everything and anything.

“Satisfying customer service is something that is supplementary in our country but in Japan, it is a must. I want this to start in Malaysia too,” Syaiful shared. 

Hence, their priority now is to slowly build a solid local customer base before introducing Veri Natural to the international market.

Aside from that, Syaiful believes in maintaining the reputation and effectiveness of their core product.

They haven’t introduced any new products into the market as they’re focusing on improving the efficiency of their operations. 

“If you keep introducing new products for the sake of releasing new products, it won’t always help your revenue.”

“You will be too busy managing more inventories without looking into important matters like proper marketing planning,” he said. 

The Pros And Cons Of The Startup Life

In the beginning, Syaiful and Saifullah spent RM100 every month each to stock up their raw materials and invest in some marketing.

“We barely had enough sales and never touched any money we earned,” Syaiful recalled.

“We kept it all rolling to produce and sell more, all in a small scale but growing, though slowly.”

After Syaiful took the leap of faith and started running Veri Natural full-time, his share of income from Veri Natural was 70% less than the pay he got as an engineer for a while.

It wasn’t an easy sacrifice, but it was one he had to make to grow Veri Natural to what it is today.

Veri Natural has been an online store since it started, and they still plan to keep it this way.

Remaining online gives Syaiful and Saifullah as well as their employees more flexibility, and helps them save on transportation and rental costs.

Apart from going into the international market, they’re also planning to prioritise the eco-friendliness of their packaging. 

“We know this doesn’t particularly sound like an income generating project. In fact our cost will increase. But we feel that this project is a more important mission for now.” 

“It’s part of our responsibility.”

Bottom Line: The cost of deodorant creams and salt stones are definitely higher than roller sticks or aerosols. However, finding a deodorant that works for you is really like hitting the jackpot, and I speak from experience.

  • You can learn more about Veri Natural here.
  • You can read about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Syaiful Afzal, founder of Veri Natural

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