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He pioneered solid colognes in M’sia 7 years ago & still personally handcrafts them today

Analogue Apotik wasn’t always Analogue Apotik. Once upon a time, the company known for its solid colognes was actually just The Apothecary. Vulcan Post featured them six years ago when the company was known by its former moniker.

The founder, Adrian Cheong, explained that the original inspiration for The Apothecary came from his granduncle, who is also a consultant.

“Adrian, [have you] ever wondered why big companies have only two to three syllables?” Adrian remembers his granduncle asking. “K-F-C, Mc-Do-nald’s?”

Heeding those words, Adrian landed on The Apothecary (which is actually six syllables, but the general lesson on simplicity still stands).

Analogue Apotik features a wider selection of products today, including candles and oil-based fragrances / Image Credit: Analogue Apotik

But eventually, he realised that the generic and hard-to-pronounce nature of the name was making the company lose out on deals, particularly when they attempted to establish brand partnerships overseas and got rejected. So, he decided to change it to Analogue Apotik.

In the new name, Analogue refers to the analogue style of old apothecaries, while Apotik derives from Apotek, which is Bahasa Indonesia for apothecary.

Cologne challenges

The biggest challenge for Analogue Apotik since Adrian last spoke to Vulcan Post has been, unsurprisingly, the pandemic.

Local and international sales were both affected, resulting in a 60% drop in revenue.

“During the pandemic, we introduced our candle lines which worked really well as our customers were stuck at home,” Adrian shared. “So, that kind of offset some of the revenue lost from our colognes.”

On top of innovating a new line of products, the founder also became more prudent about buying raw materials and managing cash flow cautiously.

The company ventured into soy wax candles during the pandemic / Image Credit: Analogue Apotik

Another issue has been rising competition. In the early days, solid colognes were definitely a novel product, especially in Malaysia, and possibly even Southeast Asia. At the time, The Apothecary could be considered a pioneer of solid colognes in the region.

Today, however, the product is more common. For example, Malaysian personal grooming brand Alwis x Xavier also sells solid colognes. Alwis x Xavier’s solid colognes go for RM65, while Analogue Apotik’s are RM75.

Adrian has certainly noticed the increase in competition and would be lying if he said he wasn’t worried at all.

“But it is something I’ve expected and the only way is to up our game,” Adrian added. “The main way we can set ourselves apart is to make sure our scent game is good.”

The founder also believes in levelling up the quality of products in other ways, such as through unique packaging.

“Since we can’t really trademark our normal tin design, we might as well build something that only we have,” he shared.

With that in mind, Analogue Apotik created the crackle case, a sturdier version of the tin case, which can be flicked open like a Zippo lighter. These crackle cases also take refills, something that the older cases can’t do.

On top of solid colognes and candles, Analogue Apotik also features oil-based fragrances, hair products, and even some merchandise (just snapbacks for now).

Stirring up new scents

Given Analogue Apotik’s wide variety selection of scents, it might seem like it’s fairly easy to cook up a new fragrance idea. However, it sometimes takes Adrian upwards of a few months to concoct a product.

When creating a new product, Adrian will ask himself a few questions. “Does this make sense to our customers?” or “What would the overall experience be?”

Another thing he reminds himself of is “I am not shiok sendiri,” which means that he isn’t creating the product just for his own satisfaction, but to instead meet the needs of his customers.  

The Analogue Hair Paste is a hair styling paste that uses beeswax, candalilla wax and carnauba wax / Image Credit: Analogue Apotik

When we last spoke to Adrian, his business was focusing on masculine fragrances, but since then they’ve also made colognes that are more feminine, namely Yama, Admiral, and Cleopatra.

“But I still want to make sure my products are not gender-specific because I would want my customers to be free to explore scents instead of being tied down by a certain gender bias when it comes to fragrance,” Adrian expressed.

Did you know: The difference between cologne and perfume lies in the concentration of essential oils used. Perfume has 20% to 30%, while cologne typically uses 2% to 5%.

The founder himself has used floral scents before and claims that no one has ever commented that he smells like a guniang (meaning a lady in Chinese).  

Fragrances of the future

At Analogue Apotik, things are still analogue, literally. Adrian continues to personally handcraft the products. The only difference between now and back in 2016 is that they’ve included bigger tools to speed things up.

Products are handcrafted by Adrian and occasionally part-timers / Image Credit: Analogue Apotik

The team still consists mainly of Adrian himself too, though part-timers and project-based freelancers are brought on board sometimes.

Just like in 2016, Analogue Apotik remains a bootstrapped startup, though it’s considering going for equity crowdfunding to bolster growth.

“These are pretty tough times,” Adrian shared. “But we are averaging around 300+ colognes with 100 to 200+ candles [sold] a month.”

In terms of new fragrances, he hinted at introducing not only new scents but perhaps a new line of sprays.

Over the years, it’s safe to say that Analogue Apotik has solidified (pun intended) its reputation as a creator of quality fragrance products in Malaysia. Once worldwide shipping costs go down, Adrian also hopes to spread that reputation abroad.

  • Learn more about Analogue Apotik here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Adrian Cheong, founder of Analogue Apotik

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

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(UEN 201431998C.)

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