Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Burmese fragrance

Local cosmetic company Flawless Myanmar launches a new line of perfume. Not without difficulties.

Flawless Myanmar's three fragrancesFlawless Myanmar's three fragrances

If Myanmar were to be a flower, what would it be? A white jasmine, a yellow padauk or a red rose?

This is what Ma Lwin Mar Aung, from Flawless Myanmar, has been busy working on for over a year.

Last month she launched her first collection of naturally-made fragrances: Eau de Perfume.

The Frenglish sounding collection offers three different products : “Magnolia in Bloom”, “Yellow Champac” and “Cherry Blossom”.

Flawless Myanmar was created in 2015 and its mission statement is to make cosmetics with local, natural products – a laudable goal, though not an easy one to reach.

“This is by far the most difficult item our team had to produce,” Ma Lwin Mar Aung told Weekend.

“We can use lime for skin brightening and oil control. Peppermint is good for anti-dandruff shampoos. But perfume with a long lasting scent proved to be very challenging. Especially as I only want to use homegrown plants and flowers that represent and capture the essence of our country”.

Ma Lwin Mar tested over 20 kinds of flowers in her lab and she surveyed customers to establish her shortlist. The three winners enumerated earlier are on store shelves since last month.

The packaging and design of the bottle are simple, nice and easy. Prices are reasonable. (Weekend tip: Until July 25th, any of the three Eau de Perfume bottles purchased comes with two samples free o the two other scents.)

“This is the only local perfume which is popular among customer,” said an employee at Beauty Diary, a cosmetic retailer. “Cherry Blossom sells best,” she adds.

Following this first success, Ma Lwin Mar Aung said she plans to release new scents later this year. A more wintery collection, she added.

 Flawless Myanmar's products. Nyan Zay Htet / ႊThe Myanmar TimesFlawless Myanmar's products. Nyan Zay Htet / ႊThe Myanmar Times

A blooming local business

Eau De Perfume is the latest of a long list of products launched by Flawless Myanmar.

The business also produces shampoos, facial and shower gels, various types of lotion, facial products, body scrubs as well as beauty oils.

“There are a lot of cosmetic brands in Myanmar, but mostly international, and sometimes counterfeited,” explains Ma Lwin Mar Aung, whose business has not always been cosmetic.

“Women here buy products which provenience is often unknown. Where do the products come from? What are the ingredients? I felt Myanmar’s customers needed to be able to have greater traceability over the products they use daily. I saw an opening there.”

A self-made woman, Ma Lwin Mar Aung took online classes from the Aromatic International UK program for about three years and subsequently founded Flawless Myanmar.

“Our country has a lot of raw materials, but we do not teach the techniques to refine our products. We mostly use import cosmetics and brands from outside. This is a shame. There is so much potential here,” she sights.

One of her most persuasive selling argument is her customer service. Here proximity is the key. As her products are locally consumed, she can quickly and easily make do for any wrongdoing her products could cause – something international companies cannot do, at least not in Myanmar.

Weekend did not take her word for it, and complained. Truth be told, our problem was solved in less than one hour.

Testing at Beauty DiaryTesting at Beauty Diary

No fertile ground for business

The main challenge Ma Lwin Mar Aung faces is mostly cultural.

“I had a phone call the other day from someone who had seen my product and was keen to buy them. But her tone changed when I told her that we were made in Myanmar. She briskly thanked me and hung up.”

Years of poor quality-products have tarnished the Myanmar brand so badly that even Myanmar people are reluctant to buy local goods.

Never mind, Ma Lwin Mar Aung takes pride in her 99.9 pct Myanmar brand –a tiny portion of her materials is imported.

Another challenge is red tape. Ma Lwin Mar Aung is still waiting for the authorization from Myanmar’s Food and Drugs administration to approve her brand, despite having taken tests in Malaysia and Thailand.

Myanmar has still a long way to go before it becomes a truly fertile ground for business.

Products from the Flawless Myanmar are available at Beauty Diary, Marketplace from City and other cosmetic and health product stores in Yangon and other 30 cities in Myanmar.

For more information visits their Facebook page, flawlessmyanmarofficial.