A local tweak to the cosmetic revolution
by Chai Li Tiing, firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted on July 29, 2012, Sunday
Clara International: ‘Inside out and completely’
Founded in 1977 as a beauty salon, Clara International Beauty Group (Clara IBG) is the brain child of Datin Dr Clara Chee who had a vision for a beauty brand that would cater primarily to the beauty needs of Malaysian women.
Noticing the wide array of foreign brands in the market that did not address the particular problems faced by local women, Chee founded the company with products which ranged from those targeted at youthful skin to a range catering to the more mature and sensitive ageing skin.
Going above and beyond just a cosmetics and beauty brand, Clara IBG provides a wide range of services, from skin care consultation, apart from its beauty centres and herbal skin care products, it also has a team of chemists and microbiologists in its R&D department, its own manufacturing plant and the Clara International Aesthetic College.
When asked on his opinion on the competitiveness of the local products in the arena, Clara IBG business development and marketing director, Jason Woo said, “We feel that our Clara products are definitely on par with other international brands due to the intensive research which we carry out. We use only the finest ingredients to manufacture the final product in a high-tech production line which is used as a model facility even by governmental agencies and foreign parties.”
Woo noted that Clara IBG’s strongest competitive advantage was that, being a home-grown Malaysian company, the company understood the needs of the local market, ‘inside out and completely’.
“For the past few years, we have embarked on a series of public educational road shows and forums aimed at informing the public on the importance of choosing the right skincare developed specifically for Malaysian skin.
“We position our products to meet market demand by doing our R&D with an experienced team based in our state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Selangor which adheres to stringent quality control and also GMP and ISO certified,” Woo explained.
In the past few years, the director revealed that Clara IBG had been comfortably profitable as a company. It has emerged as one of the largest beauty groups in the country.
Asked of the challenges the company faced in its endeavour to bring the business forward, Woo noted that the company’s biggest challenge was that local consumers maintained a mindset that foreign brands were always superior to the local ones. He opined that the brands were building a following through the use of huge marketing budgets. They would adopt fancy packaging and endorsements from powerful celebrities.
However, Malaysian companies have also taken the first steps towards further boosting the standings of local brands in the market through the setting up of the Malaysian Beauty Therapy Association (MBTA). Woo described the group as an initiative to gather all local beauty companies so that they could unite and voice their thoughts with more conviction.
“Through the MBTA, we can also uphold responsible practices in the beauty trade as well as promote the professional ethical knowledge of those working in the beauty profession, thus advancing the status of all beauticians in the country,” he said.
The director also highlighted an insufficient local demand in the market which led to intense competition among players. He believed that this especially affected the newer and smaller players who faced an uphill battle to survive being new entrants to the market and would subsequently adopt unhealthy practices such as hard-selling, using inferior or imitation products, shoddy treatments and price gouging.
“There is also a joke about Malaysian consumers being easily swayed in different directions by the gimmicky marketing tactics employed by the international players,” Woo said, noting that the only way to keep up with the constant changing trends of the market would be the constantly be nimble enough to study and recognise trends.
On what consumers could anticipate from the industry in the future, Woo shed light on the proposed Beauty Industry Act, “It has been mooted but it has yet to be drafted and passed by the government. This will be of paramount importance as it would hopefully be able to regulate the beauty profession to maintain high standards and ethics for the benefit of both consumers and practitioners.
Going forward, he said that Clara IBG would continue to be a ‘Trusted name in Beauty’, keeping in line with the company motto after 35 years in business.